Incredible old black and white photographs show bygone age

A dapper-looking St Neots Football Club from 1898.

A dapper-looking St Neots Football Club from 1898. - Credit: ST NEOTS MUSEUM

Pictures by local photographer Peter Hagger are now on display in St Neots Museum's at its first temporary exhibition of the year.

The exhibition, What a Beautiful World which runs until March 12, showcases  scenery and architecture that Mr Hagger has captured and includes some of his stunning portraits of animals, both in colour and black and white.

At a time when most people have a camera in their mobile phones, the museum is also keen to highlight the town's rich photographic heritage going back to Victorian times.

A dapper-looking St Neots Football Club from 1898.

A dapper-looking St Neots Football Club from 1898. - Credit: ST NEOTS MUSEUM

Photography dates back many centuries to the camera obscura but a means of preserving the images did not come about until the 1800s. However, by the early 1850s a new process which used a glass plates to create a negative had been invented and the photographic portrait had arrived in St Neots by 1854 when Richard and Ann Spring of Peterborough advertised portraits with frame for five shillings. 

The earliest known photographs of the town are found in later editions of Gorham’s History of Eynesbury and St Neots, including images of the town dating from the 1850s.

St Neots Market square 1855

A familiar St Neots Market Square from 1855 - Credit: St Neots Museum

Street decorations celebrating the 1863 marriage of the future Edward VII and Princess Alexandra of Denmark were taken by surveyor, architect and photographer William Jackson  which gave a flavour of life in Victorian St Neots.

His photograph of a large cedar tree in Cambridge Street probably gave the name to a school and the current Cedar House surgery.

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As photography caught on the Government recognised the usefulness of the camera and from the early 1870s every prisoner entering Huntingdon Gaol was photographed, giving early images or ordinary people from the period.

Victorian royal celebrations

Royal wedding celebrations in Cambridge Street, St Neots, from 1863 - Credit: St Neots Museum

"Today photography has lost its novelty but photographs remain a precious way of recording our lives, yet another debt we owe to the remarkable Victorians," said the museum which has a range of historic photographs in its archive, although they are not normally on display. 

A full account of the impact of photography on the town to the digital age is on the blog page of the museum's website where the historic pictures can be seen.