Croydon Camera Club
Croydon Camera Club

Croydon Camera Club History 1890-1918
The Club is Founded

Now to get to our records, meagre though they be, and let me take you back some 60 years to a meeting that is being held in Room 2 at the Public Hall Croydon on the evening of Tuesday the 25th February 1890. The redoubtable Mr. Hector Maclean is in the Chair, he was then a well known figure in the Photographic world, he knew everybody, and was a regular contributor to the Press on Photographic topics.

After a statement by the Chairman respecting the growth of a movement for founding a Camera Club for Croydon and district, the advantages such a Club would offer, and the steps proposed to be taken, the first Resolution was put to the meeting that:

"It is desirable to form a Photographic Society for Croydon and district"

And with these simple words the child came to birth.

The proposer and seconder of that momentous Resolution deserve at least to have their names recorded, they were Mr. E. F. Smither and Mr. A. J. Sargeant, and the Minute of the Resolution simply says it was carried "nem con," not unanimously, mark you, not even with enthusiasm but plainly "nem con" as if some of those present were forming mental reservations and reserving to themselves the right to argue the point later on.

Not a word could I discover anywhere in the old Minute books limiting membership to men only. Rule 4 in the first Rules drawn up and approved by the newly formed Society just states that "Amateurs and Professionals are eligible" and leaves it at that.

Whether any ladies were interested in Photography in those days or what would have happened if one had applied for membership I do not know. Anyhow, it is not till years later that we find the prospectus announcing that the Club is open "to gentlemen interested in Photography".

The second Resolution fixed the amount of the annual subscription at 10/6


The third Resolution was to the effect that a pro tem Committee be formed with power to draw up Rules and make arrangement respecting a meeting room.

The Committee is created

This Committee consisted of Mr. Hector Maclean and three gentlemen nominated by him and three selected by the meeting. Maclean nominated Messrs Smither DeClercq and Barker whilst the three chosen by the meeting were Messrs Plimmer, White, and Bishop. By the next meeting on March 10th the temporary Committee had drawn up provisional Rules which with a few modifications were adapted, and the following gentlemen (I quote the words of the entry in the Minute Book) were "unanimously elected as the governing body of the Club," a term which no one has ever since dared to use! This governing body consisted of -

 The President  Hector Maclean
 Treasurer  Mr. E. T. Smither
 Hon. Sec.  Mr. DeClercq
 Hon. Asst. Sec.  Mr. Alfred Underbill
 Council  Messrs White, Bishop, Plimmer, Barker, Blow and Isaac.
Members review their photographs

It was at this meeting that the Club got to work at Photography and the record is so quaint that I must quote it in full:-

"The following Photographic specimens, it says, were passed round viz:-Flash light photographs by Mr. Barker Aristotype prints by Mr. Cheshire Portraits, snow scenes and enlargements by Isaac. Views of Weymouth by Mr. Blow and Forest scenery and Exterior of Circus tent by Mr. White.”

You will observe the modesty of statement that from the very first has ever characterised the language of the Club, members bring up "views" and pass round "enlargements and Forest scenery" and make no attempt to call them pictures or even pictorial.

Early in the life of the Club reference is made to the Club album which had been presented by one of the members. This was in existence until some years before the 1914 - 18 War, it contained only a few prints of little interest, but this, like many other precious souvenirs, has disappeared.

The first meetings are held

The first meeting was held on a Tuesday as were the subsequent ones for the next few weeks until the Club secured its own room at 56 or 96 George Street, 96 I think being the correct address.

No reference is made to a change of day of meeting though one supposes that it must have been discussed by members, but it appears that having secured premises the Club changed its day of meeting from Tuesday to Wednesday though three years later we find the day of meeting being again debated though without any change.

Why Wednesday was chosen is not clear since there is no clue to it in the Minutes nor is there any definite record of a discussion as to the day of meeting, We may assume it was the result of a definite wish and had nothing to do with Early Closing Day which was not then in operation in Croydon. And for the benefit of anyone interested we may add that it was not until 1912 that local authorities had power to choose an early closing day and enforce it.

Before the passing of the Shops Act 1912 the Early Closing Association had made arrangements with rural traders whereby early closing operated one day a week but after the passing of the Act somewhere about the end of November 1912 Croydon chose Wednesday.

Another explanation may be suggested based on a report some years ago by the National Institute of Psychology wherein it is stated that from observations made in many trades the output of work is comparatively poor on Monday, increases on Tuesday, reaches a maximum on Wednesday and then tails off towards the end of the week. How well is this exemplified in our Club! Think of what would happen if by some mischance Monday had been chosen instead of Wednesday. Clearly no President could be expected to wax eloquent and say sugary things to a Lecturer on a Monday!

Meeting rooms are secured

Negotiations for Club premises went on during the next few weeks conducted by a small Sub-Committee and on July 9th we find it recorded that a Mr, Mullett had agreed to let the lower part of 96 George Street consisting of one large room two small rooms and lavatory and forecourt for the sum of £10 to the end of the year to be paid by instalments or for £8 if the Club paid down ready money on taking possession.

The report states that this arrangement was agreed to by the Council subject to the approval of members at the next ordinary meeting. We may suppose that approval was obtained, though no entry to this effect appears in the Minute Book, because the next entry records a meeting of Council on Wednesday 23rd July at the new headquarters.

With regard to the actual site I confess to a difficulty which I cannot quite explain. The original entry describing the premises to "be taken from Mr. Mullett gives the number in George St. as 56 which is struck out, (apparently later) and the number 96 inserted above it. Moreover in a Club report that I discovered inserted in the "Photographic News" of 18 July 1890 it is stated that the Club has just taken possession of its new rooms at 56 George St.

It looks as if the explanation is that negotiations for both places were going on and that ultimately the rooms at 96 were chosen and secured.

There is obviously some confusion of dates in the not too well kept Minutes about this time but I think that at the later meeting a Sub-Committee was appointed to arrange for the supply of refreshment one of the first concerns of the Club when it had secured a home of its own.

The tenancy of these rooms was not a long one because we find that in April of the following year Mr. Maclean and the Hon. Sec. were authorised to make enquiries for new Club premises, but it was not until September that the Council decided to move to No. 56 and began negotiations to take the new premises as from Michaelmas 1891.

In this year (1890) the first Club report appeared in the pages of "The Photographic News" of 18 April 1890.

It reads as follows:-

“A meeting was held at the headquarters Public Hall on April llth the President Mr H. Maclean PGS in the Chair.”

The Subject for the evening was a demonstration of Platinotype printing by the Platinotype Company's representative Mr. Smith who gave the history of the process, describing the action of the various chemical substances used. He then developed a number of prints which had been made from members negatives by the Platinotype Company, these being distributed among the members. An interesting discussion followed. Four new members were elected during the Evening.”