27th May 1943

This afternoon went round to see old Smith the farrier, who I had heard had several old photos.  Although I had known his daughter Hilda so long, I had never met the old man before.  He looked incredibly old and frail, but was not deaf as I had imagined.  He lives in a little bungalow in Maldon Rd, on the W. side, and when I got there was sitting in a chair at the window, watching the passing traffic, the sun shining on his bald head.  It was rather pathetic to see this shrunken little man, once so strong.  We talked for a long time about old times and old people.  He spoke of his disappointment when he got only £4 for the last pony cart he had, which was sold down at the market.  I remembered the occasion, about 1928.

Old Smith was famous for his trotting ponies 30 years ago, and showed at Olympia, and in Belgium and Holland.  When the last war began, he lost the ponies and show carts in Holland, as there was no transport to bring them home.

At last I got him round to the subject of photographs, and he admitted reluctantly that there were a few “old pictures” about somewhere, but the only thing he really wanted me to see was a huge enlarged photo of himself and his 6 brothers – all farriers, taken about 40 years ago, on the last occasion it had been possible to get the whole family together. 

At last, after much searching the housekeeper produced three photos, which were apparently with a lot of rubbish in the air raid shelter.  They were three beauties – Bourne Mill, the German camp on the Recreation Ground, and Hythe Quay, all apparently taken about 1856.  The Mill and the Camp are wet-plates, the Quay is a silver bromide.  It is a wonderful find, the pleasure of the discovery only reduced by the news that he formerly had “about two dozen” like them, but in various removals they had been thrown away.  What a tragedy!  He bought them at old George Joslin’s sale about 1903, and it seems that G.J. was the photographer.  I had never heard of this before.

I had quite a job to get the old man to let me take the photos away, and had to talk about everything under the sun, from tandem driving to the war, before I got them away.

Rudsdale made copies of these important early photographs of Colchester and these are now held by Colchester Museums Service and the National Monuments Record in Swindon.  The photographs have also been reprinted in a number of local history books about Colchester. CP

1 comment:

Jane said...

The german camp at the Recreation ground sounds interesting. Will look out for more information on this.