Croydon Camera Club
Croydon Camera Club

Croydon Camera Club History: 1890-2000

Soirees: Exhibitions, and Club Foundation 1890-1900

This parsimonious attitude within the Club started from inception - outwardly hospitality was unstinting, inwardly every penny was grudgingly given. Financial worries figuring largely in the early years with considerable difficulties in getting subscriptions paid. The Club was often in debt to the President, Hector MacLean, who helped by advancing cash to pay the rent! This must have been a very anxious period for the Croydon CC was not the only photographic gathering in town. The Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society had had a photographic section since 1885 which held meetings and Annual Exhibitions and could rely on the support of the main membership. In the first 10 years or so, the two photographic bodies ran parallel and there is no record of any one being a member of both; but gradually Croydon Camera Club appeared to attract more members.

Second Exhibition 1893, with musical extravaganza

For its second Annual Exhibition held in April 1893 at the Braithwaite Hall, Croydon, the Club laid on an extensive programme of slide shows, demonstrations and musical interludes which lasted for an hour and gives the impression today that perhaps 100 years ago photography was not as universally practised as the Club would like to believe. To encourage people to see lantern displays of about half an hour duration it was necessary to intersperse them with hour long musical interludes. One concert was given entirely by the "Birdhurst Glee Society", another was provided by a Banjo quartet together with vocal selections from Sir Arthur Sullivan's operas. An advertisement in the Exhibition Catalogue by Roberts of North End gives a fascinating insight to the materials needed by the Victorian photographer.

Third Exhibition 1899; The Soiree and Women!

There are no records to account for a gap of six years before the next exhibition, although surmise could be that the euphoria of the new Club had evaporated and financial problems beset and hindered expansion; but by the time the third Annual Exhibition was held in 1899 at the Art Gallery, Park Lane, the Club was able to offer "permanent Club Rooms" for demonstrations, debates, reading of papers, exhibitions and lantern displays. There was a "Reading Room and a Dark Room with lockers and special photographic conveniences, also enlarging lantern screens etc always available". This was some Club! And proud to proclaim "it also has a substantial cash balance". This may have been contributed to by the holding of the first Rummage Sale in May 1895.

What had brought about this change? Most likely it was the endeavour to raise cash by means of "public performances" which stimulated interest leading to increased membership and more revenue, for it is known that in the period 1890-1900 no less than 40 public lantern shows were given in various halls in Croydon, including the Public Hall and The Braithwaite Hall with excellent slides from its members as well as known lecturers attracting good audiences and making a profit. As a result the Club was able to move to more commodious premises at 106 George Street at the end of 1896.

At most of the public performances there were musical intermissions generally by ladies and more than one reference is made with the Club offering thanks to a "team of lady banjoists". It is therefore not to be wondered at that in 1897 there was a proposal discussed to form a Ladies' Section but no definite result came about and it was to be 50 years before Ladies were admitted to the Club.

Given that Victorian men considered ladies had no place in society so it is all the more remarkable that two years later at the Third Annual Exhibition Soiree on 24th October 1899 there was a lantern lecture on "The Cities and Sights of Spain" by Mrs E. Main. It was an achievement in itself to have travelled so far, but a lady? And with a camera? This lady had twice had conferred the RPS medal for her accomplished rendering of Alpine scenery and her lecture "Mountaineering from a Woman's Point of View" given to the Club on 16th November 1898 drew a crowded and enthusiastic audience. But such accomplishments did not alter the Club's resolve that Ladies were there by invitation and to sing songs and make tea, even though there was nothing in the Rules (then) to preclude Ladies joining.