Echoes of the past: A look back at the Brighouse Photographic Society

A photograph taken between 1905 - 1910 of people in the grounds of the library
A photograph taken between 1905 - 1910 of people in the grounds of the library

It is thanks to the early members of the Brighouse Photographic Society, which was formed in 1895 that today we have the opportunity of seeing how Brighouse and its surrounding communities looked over a century ago.

Some of those early members included George Hepworth who as a local architect probably had both the time and money to equip himself for this new pastime. When the old museum in Brighouse Library was closed in 1956 many of his old glass plate negatives found their way to the Tolson Museum in Huddersfield. Disposing of these is not one of the things the old Brighouse Council can be proud of.

Martin Manley was another who’s negatives have had countless prints re-produced and duplicated many times. I understand that whilst many of his glass plate negatives were sold years ago quite a number of them were lost in a dustbin.

Henry Robinson joined the society a few years after it began when he moved to Clifton and became the local postman. He worked from the then almost new Post Office in Park Street in the town centre. The one good thing about Mr Robinson’s photographs was that on almost every negative he etched his initials ‘HR’ on. I have many old postcards with these on and something other postcard collectors will I am sure be interested to learn.

One of the later members was Mr Harry Mitchell who had the shoe shop in Commercial Street. I was fortunate enough many years ago to have the opportunity of purchasing his old glass plate negatives. Most of these plates are almost as good as the day the picture was taken and the prints are equally as sharp.

Looking through an old membership card dated 1918/19 I have for the society it is interesting to look at what they offered to members in those days.

The President was George Hepworth, with Vice Presidents J.E.Longbottom, H.P.Metcalfe and Richard Woodhouse. The Treasurer was Alderman John Wood and Henry Robinson was one of two secretary’s. The annual subscription was five shillings and two and sixpence for those under eighteen.

The winter meetings in those days were held on Thursday’s at 7.30pm at a studio in Hall Street. The narrow little back street behind the Civic Hall, which took its name from the old Town Hall after it was built in 1866.

On most Thursday’s the society was visited by a guest speaker who would either give a demonstration or show examples of a particular subject for that night’s lecture. As always the last meeting of the year was devoted to an exhibition of members prints and slides.

To help members the society gave free use to a dark room facility and an enlarging lantern. Any paid up member of the society was automatically entitled to the privileges of the Yorkshire Photographic Union.

Here is an example of a photograph taken between 1905 - 1910 and is one of the Henry Mitchell glass plates I have - a summer view taken in the grounds of the library.