Notes on the History of Tynemouth Photographic Society

By Stan Bewick
These notes were originally written on the occasion of the 75th anniversary in 1978.

Our Society was founded as The Borough of Tynemouth Photographic Society at a meeting in the Town Hall on Wednesday 18th March 1903, under the Chairmanship of Coun. William Dodds. The meeting was adjourned until 22nd April for the formulation of Rules and at that meeting the first officers were appointed. The first address was then given, on Pictorial Photography, by Mr.W.S. Corder, The President.

The fortunes of the Society have fluctuated in its 75 years, but we have always been one of the leading societies in the North of England. The following notes have been gleaned from our records and are intended to be of interest to members rather than a detailed history.

 Meeting Place

In its first year the Society held its meetings in the Parish Hall at a cost of £2/10/- for the season. In 1904 we moved to the Presbyterian Hall in Northumberland Square at a cost of £3/10/- for the season. Consideration was given to changing venues in 1910 as the Boys Brigade met on the same evening in the hall below. However in 1911 it was felt that the room was too cold and we moved to Howard Street Presbyterian Hall at a nightly rental of 3/3d. On the outbreak of the First War in 1914, the Hall was taken over by the military authorities and in common with most other societies, T.P.S. went into hibernation for the duration of hostilities. We resumed our activities in the same Hall in October 1919 when the rent had risen to 5/- per night. We stayed there for only one more year, moving to the Y.M.C.A. in Bedford Street in October 1920 where we stayed for 10 years. In 1930 we were on the move again, now to 11 Northumberland Square. Then in 1933 we moved to our own club rooms, "Camera Corner" at the top of Nile Street, which many of our older members [in 1978] will remember well. Mr & Mrs Hawes were our caretakers for the 24 years we occupied these rooms. The rental in 1933 was £12/10/- per annum. The move to our present "Camera House" was in 1957.


In the early days, meetings were held on the first and third Thursdays of the winter months. In 1925 and 1926, weekly meetings were held, but the depression years of the late 20s were not easy times and we had to revert to fortnightly meetings. However, since 1930, with one exception, we have met every Thursday from October to April. That one year was 1941/2 season when, because of wartime conditions, experimental Saturday afternoon meetings were tried but were not a success.

A syllabus has always been printed, usually on the folded card principle still used today. The Fish Quay scene which appears on present-day copies dates from 1951 and is a block designed by Capt.Nicholson, a member who was also an artist.

The Committee has always tried to maintain a balance between practical subjects and entertainment. However,to give members an idea of how photography has changed from being a science, it is worth listing the items from our very first syllabus of 1903/4:

It is interesting that as long ago as January 1905 there was a lecture on "A NewProcess of Colour Photography".

An item which is ever popular is "Members Look at the World" which is always the first meeting after the Christmas recess. This item has been held for over 50 years, from 1925 when the idea was for members to show their efforts from the previous year's outings.

Another hardy annual is the Auction. This was first staged in 1952 as a fill-in when one of our own members, Bill Sharp, was unable to give his appointed lecture. The evening contributed £7 to club funds and has been repeated every year since, with members' generosity increasing with inflation, currently raising £50 or £60.

Since we moved into our own premises at Camera Corner, meetings of an instructional nature have been held regularly during the summer months.

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Outings have always been an important item in the calendar of the Society although the emphasis has changed over the years. Certainly up to the Second War the main object of the outing was practical, but with the coming of the motor coach, they have developed more into social events. The very first outing was held on 20th June 1903 to Bardon Mill, a popular photographic venue. Wm Dodds donated a £1 prize for the best picture of the day and the efforts were judged by Edgar Lee, a well known judge from Heaton.

The organisation of the outings has in the main been the responsibility of three members - prior to 1920, Mr J.R. King (father of Mrs. Littlefield), most of the 20s and 30s S.G. Hilton and since 1961 Norman Brooks. In the time of Mr.King, there was usually one outing each summer month. In the 20s and 30s there were two per month with an outing syllabus being issued covering 10 events. In those days the outings were always by public transport and the popular places like Durham, Hexham, Alnwick and Warkworth were repeated. In addition, many local outings were included such as Seaton Sluice, Holywell Dene; there were trips on the river by steamer and even by rowing boat, and also a number of very local venues like Central Station or Quayside or even North Shields Station or riverside. Clearly the object was to take photographs. One of the highlights was in 1921, when the members took a charabanc ride. There were two interesting cancellations; in 1926 to Prudhoe, due to the General Strike and in 1952 to Gilsland because of Foot and Mouth.

In 1908 and again in 1934, we entertained the other clubs in the Federation and on 18th June 1927, we were hosts to a joint outing of the Northern Counties Photographic Federation and the Royal Photographic Society. In the morning we showed them Seaton Sluice and Holywell Dene (of interest is that the meeting place was Monkseaton Tram Terminus). In the afternoon we took them to Cullercoats, the Longsands and Priors Haven. After tea at Baxters the party concluded by taking pictures on the riverside.

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The importance of competitions has grown as the Society has progressed. As the number of practical subjects has declined and the technical science has been taken out of photography by the manufacturers, we have come to depend on competitions as a form of instruction. In the early days, the only competition was the Annual Exhibition. From 1926, the Annual Lantern Slide Competition was included as a separate item on the syllabus. From 1933 there were monthly print competitions; the subjects were set, but they were not allocated a place in the syllabus. Since the last war, the number of competitions has increased with colour slides gaining parity with prints, and monochrome slides fading out in 1974. The inter-club Slide competition commenced about 1924, in mono slides. In those days, the competing clubs were Gateshead, South Shields, Whitley Bay and Tynemouth. By 1930, Gateshead and Whitley Bay had dropped out and Newcastle joined in 1936. Shortly afterwards, colour slides were added and it became solely colour in 1971. From Newcastle joining, there is no evidence of us having won until 1973. The inter-club Print Competition with Gateshead and Sunderland started in 1968 and we have not won this. In 1972, our Alf Brittain suggested that the 10 clubs of the Federation's North Tyne Area hold an annual slide competition. We were winners of the Evening Chronicle Trophy in that first year.

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The main trophies of the Society are as follows.

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 Successes in Federation Competitions

Pride of place under this heading must be 1935 when we were winners of the Corder Trophy, the club award in the print section. Our set of six prints were as follows.

We also won the club award in this competition in 1907, the first time it had been held. There was no trophy in those days, but a certificate hangs on our walls.

Over the years we have had many individual successes in Federation Competitions.

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 Other Photographic Honours

 Life Members

Since Life Membership was introduced in 1956, four such members have been appointed:


Exhibitions have always formed the highlight of the season's work. In the early days it was open for only two or three days but there was competition in several classes both for members and for members of other clubs. Bronze Medals and Plaques were donated as prizes by the senior members of the Society. In 1907, a Water Colour by Slater was donated as a prize and in 1909 books on Art were given. In those days it was necessary to hire the Parish Hall or the Presbyterian large hall, and two items in the accounts are of interest in this connection - hire of piano from Wallingtons 12/6d and Boy with Barrow 6d (presumably to transport prints and hanging material).

The largest entries were in the pre-war days at Nile Street when up to 160 to 170 prints would be hung. However, there are two exhibitions which stand out. The very first in November 1903 when there was a large display of prints and equipment showing the progress of photography from the earliest days of Fox-Talbot and Daguerre. The other was in 1951 when the prints were sent for judging to J.T.Knight in Edinburgh. He returned them but they were never received. The Exhibition was delayed for one week while stout-hearted members made new prints. Compensation of £127/6/3d was received from British Railways based on £2 for an Advanced Print, £1 for an intermediate and 10/- for a beginner. The Society benefitted £19 by way of donation from some of the members. New prints had to be hurriedly made for our Corder Trophy entry and that year we gained second place.

The Federation Challenge Cup and Galloway Rose Bowl were allocated for award in our Exhibition in 1944/5 season. On two occasions, 1959 and 1962, we have staged the Alliance Exhibition in our clubrooms and on at least three occasions, we have organised this National Exhibition.

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The Society's three specialist groups [as in 1978] were formed as follows.

 Film Pack

Our summer newsletter is eagerly awaited by members to learn of the out of season activities. This was started in May 1934 and since then there have been 212 editions. The editor of the first edition was Jack Oliver assisted by Jimmy Lane. It is reported that after being duplicated in our clubrooms, it was left to dry and one or two copies wafted out of the window, spreading our news down Nile Street. Until his death in 1973, Jack, with his wonderful command of our language, was responsible for writing most of the issues in very enjoyable style. Other members did try their hand from time to time and much assistance was given with printing and distribution. There had been one earlier attempt to start the Film Pack with a massive 11 page document written by J.W. Jones probably at Christmas 1932.

 Social Events

During the 30s and 40s, Whist Drives, Table Tennis Tournaments, Carum Evenings and even a Prize Draw were organised for financial purposes. It was not until 1949 that a dinner was arranged at the Park Hotel which, with entertainment, cost 10/-. In 1951 the first Party was organised by Mr. Smallman and Miss Wincote at the Bay Hotel. This proved so successful that it has been repeated every year since, although the venue has varied between the Bay and the Bath. The more important dinners have been held at the Grand Hotel, The Golden Jubilee in 1953 at a cost of 12/6d and the Diamond Jubilee in 1963 at a cost of 17/6d.

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The committee has always adopted a policy of living within its means. From1903 to 1920, the annual budget was only about £13 or £14. However, since then, inflation has gradually had its effect. In 1927 the balance in hand was £4/9/2d. In the six years of depression which followed, we gradually slipped to what was the low point of the Society in 1933 when we had only 3/1d to our name. At that point we moved into our own club rooms in Nile Street, entailing even more expense, and undoubtedly we would not have been able to manage but for the fund raising Whist Drives, Table Tennis and Carum Evenings organised by the lady members. The appointment of three lady treasurers in a space of 10 years were indeed very wise moves at that time.

Interesting items from the accounts:


The annual subscription for members has progressed as follows.

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 Other Items of Interest

From 1903 to his death the Society's projectionist was William Lyons, probably using his own projector. On one occasion he was presented with a framed print in appreciation. In 1927 he was succeeded by his son.

The first female committee member was Miss Wainwright in 1924.

On revision of the Rules in1933, 'the Borough' was dropped from our name.

Monthly Portfolios were hung on our walls from 1934 to the mid 60s.

On the outbreak of the War in 1939, four Committee members, including the President and Treasurer were temporarily lost to us within the first 10 days. A General Meeting was held on a Sunday and it was decided to carry on our activities as far as possible. The hanging of 'black-out' had to be arranged and a financial Guarantee list drawn up.

During and after the War the supplies of tea, sugar and milk were a problem due to rationing but somehow, the lady members managed to find some. Finally in 1951, the Food Ministry issued a permit for the purpose.

In the wartime, after one member had been questioned as suspect spy, membership certificates were issued.

In 1953, the Society presented to the Corporation two albums covering the Coronation celebrations.

Jack Oliver presented the President's Chair to the Society in 1954.

In 1956, T.H. Porter presented the Bronze Medal which he had won in our 1913 Exhibition. From this, the President's Chain of Office was made.

Mr. Willits presented the clubroom clock in 1959.

In 1962 we bought our Prado Projector.

The first Colour Week was held in 1967.

The Proscenium was erected in 1972.

The Society sold its Daguerre Camera in 1974.

The new Pradovit Projector was bought in October 1974.

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