IMAGES OF WOKING IN THE 1920s AND 1930s
Surrey History Centre has received a wonderful collection of glass plate negatives owned by the late Lyndon Davies, local author and historian, and kindly presented to us by his widow. Most of the images are thought to be the work of Woking photographer Sidney Francis (1891-1973) and offer a fascinating insight into life in the borough in the 1920s and 1930s. (SHC ref 9524).
Although a resident of Woking for many decades, Francis was born Sidney Francis Patient in Southwark on 8 October 1891. Little is known of his early life but, by the time of the 1911 census, he was working as a photographer’s assistant and living with his grandmother in Crawley, Sussex. In 1920, Francis married Edith Heasyman in Maidstone, and from 1923 they lived in Woking, at 88 Maybury Road, where he also ran a photography business. In 1932, Francis opened a studio in Commercial Road. In addition to his work as a portrait and wedding photographer, he also undertook commercial projects for the local newspaper and local businesses.
This photographic collection covers an extensive range of subjects, and highlights significant events such as Eid celebrations at the Shah Jehan Mosque and the visits of American war widows to Brookwood cemetery. The people of Woking have been well documented, and wedding parties, sports teams, brass bands, and groups of employees all appear in the collection. Local commerce and industry is well represented, from shop windows and factory buildings to buses and commercial vehicles. There are also pictures of local landmarks and street views, and of graves of the famous (and not so famous) at Brookwood cemetery.
Surrey History Centre volunteers Linda and Barry Oliver are diligently sorting and identifying the images, drawing on their own local knowledge and the expertise of others. Lyndon Davies’s book, Around Woking (2004), and back issues of the Woking News and Mail have been invaluable as Francis’s photographs frequently appeared in the newspaper. For anyone interested in the local or social history of Woking, this collection is a wonderful resource and it has unearthed new information about the town. Did you know that Woking town hosted two trade exhibitions in the 1920s? The first event was a resounding success, but the second – Wokympia – was poorly attended in February 1929 due to inclement weather.
Once the negatives have been sorted and cleaned, they will be digitised and made available to a wider audience. For now, we are pleased to present some images from the collection. If you have any information about the people and places in the photos, please get in touch!
The catalogue of an earlier deposit: Sidney Francis, photographer of Woking: glass plate and film negative collection can be viewed here: SHC ref 7095 with thumbnails of the photographs.
Click on any of the images below to see a larger version.