Croydon Camera Club
Croydon Camera Club

Croydon Camera Club History: 1890-2000

Foundation: Maclean and the early years 1890-1900
President and Council Created

The actual records prior to 1930 have gone missing but fortunately before they disappeared notes were made and published in the CA Bulletin of August 1945. It was also the practice to have regular reports of Club activities published in the British Journal of Photography (BJ) and fulsome accounts were given for over 40 years by E.A. Salt. From this material extensive use has been made for the continuing history of amateur photography in Croydon.

There was no immediate location of a meeting place. Presumably rooms were hired at the Public Hall for several weeks after its formation though the first meeting on 10th March 1890 (a Tuesday) was held in the Art Gallery. A temporary Committee had drawn up Provisional Rules and the following gentlemen were "unanimously elected to the governing body of the Club", a term which no-one ever since has dared to use. This governing body consisted of President: Hector MacLean, Treasurer E. T. Smither, Secretary de Clercq, Assistant Secretary A. Underhill. Council of Six: White, Bishop, Plimmer, Barker, Blow and Isaac.

Of these names H. MacLean was to resign in 1903 and A. E. Isaac to remain a member until his death in 1948. Immediately after the formal business "the following photographic specimens were passed around. Flashlight photographs by Mr Barker: Aristotype prints by Mr Cheshire: Portraits, Snow Scenes and enlargements by Mr Isaac: Views of Weymouth by Mr Blow and Forest Scenery and Interior or Circus Tent by Mr White."

Such modesty of statement which has not always been characteristic of the language of Croydon C. C.; of members bringing "views and enlargements" to pass around with no attempt to call them pictures, or even claim that they were pictorial!

Suitable premises

Arrangements thereafter were quickly put in hand after this first meeting to find suitable premises. On 9th July a Mr Mullett had agreed to let the lower part of 96 George Street for sum of £10 per year if in instalments or £8 down on taking possession. The accommodation was one large room, two small rooms and lavatory and forecourt. The first meeting in the new headquarters was held on 23rd July 1890. The new meeting date was on a Wednesday though there is no record of any discussion to determine the day. Perhaps the President just decided! It had nothing to do with "Early Closing Day" as some have suggested, as it was not until 1912 that local authorities had the power to choose and enforce an Early Closing Day.

It is assumed in the absence of any records that one of the small rooms became a Club darkroom and the other a licensed bar, as it was known to be one of the very few camera clubs to have a bar.

A sub-committee was formed, charged with the task of providing a supply of refreshments, and to anyone who has ever visited Croydon Camera Club either as a lecturer, demonstrator or guest, it will have been apparent that this task has been faithfully carried out for the past century. Initially, members contributed on a voluntary basis to the "Hospitality Fund" and so the burden as always fell on a few. Today the cost of providing hospitality is included in the annual subscription.

In later years the accounts show a subscription paid to the "Federation of Rambling Societies", the purpose of which is assumed to gain knowledge of suitable locations for outings. This was useful information for in the almost total absence of the motor car members had to rely for transport on train, horse or bicycle. Of these the bicycle must have had attractions as early in its existence the Club decided to allow its premises (open 8am to 12 pm) to be used by "tourists, cyclists or others who might be passing through the town". It conjures up visions then of hot dusty tourists and cyclists arriving at the Club and being offered bread and cheese, a glass of beer with a friendly word and a few coppers to cheer them on their way! The spirit which prompted the offer was an early indication of the hospitality for which Croydon became known; a reputation of which its members have always been proud.

Platinotype prints

The first Press report of the Club's activities was in the "The Photographic News" when, for the meeting of 11th April 1890 it recorded that the subject of the evening was "a demonstration of Platinotype printing by W. H. Smith, a member of the Club and General Manager of the Platinotype Company, who developed a number of prints which had been made from members' negatives and distributed these amongst members. An interesting discussion followed and four new members were elected."

Platinotype prints had no emulsion and the final image being inert platinum was more permanent than any print having a silver image. Prints thus made have a distinctive character. Owing to the high cost of platinum the process has ceased but with the association between the Club and the Platinotype Company the process was extensively used and many fine examples of the Club's photography are held in the Photographic Survey of Surrey Collection in the Croydon Reference Library.

First Exhibition

A year after its foundation the tenancy of 96 George Street must have proved unsatisfactory, for in September 1891 the President and Secretary were authorised to make inquiries for new premises and negotiated to take No 56 as from Michaelmas 1891. In this year was held the first Annual Exhibition but where and when is not recorded though the evidence is in a Silver Medal awarded to A. E. Isaac. Now we ought to say something about these medals for they were a very sensible article to have for a new Club, which had no pedigree to warrant the donation of cups, which in any event, had to be returned a year later or chased after if not.

The first medals were simple with the event engraved on the obverse and the recipient's name on the reverse. The second edition medals issued from circa 1930 were grander depicting on the obverse the Croydon Borough Coat of Arms (with or without permission is not known) and surmounted by the words "Croydon Camera Club Exhibition Medal". Silver or bronze according to merit, and yours to keep for ever. This system of recognition continued to 1967, when the Club decided medals and engraving were too expensive.