Exhibition of military photographs by Wisbech’s Lilian Ream comes to town library

PUBLISHED: 16:13 09 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:13 09 August 2017

Lilian Ream, Wisbech photographer. PHOTO: The Lilian Ream Exhibition Gallery Trust.

Lilian Ream, Wisbech photographer. PHOTO: The Lilian Ream Exhibition Gallery Trust.


The Cambridgeshire Regiment is to host an exhibition of Lilian Ream military photographs at Wisbech Library next Saturday, August 19.

Lilian Ream, Wisbech photographer. PHOTO: The Lilian Ream Exhibition Gallery Trust. Lilian Ream, Wisbech photographer. PHOTO: The Lilian Ream Exhibition Gallery Trust.

The display, which is being run in partnership with the Lilian Ream Exhibition Gallery Trust, will be on show from 10.30am to 3pm.

A spokesman for the Trust said: “As a woman photographer Lilian was a pioneer and for 62 years her photographic studio in Wisbech captured local people, places and events. Its surviving legacy now forms a social history of the Wisbech area.

“Lilian was born in 1877, the youngest of six surviving children of John Thomas and Louise Pratt of West Walton.

Lillian Ream's book 'A life in photography' Lillian Ream's book 'A life in photography'

“From a very early age her determination hinted at the forcefulness with which she would pursue her business career. She married in 1905 a local tailor Sydney Ream. Their first child Roland was born in 1907 and a daughter Mary in 1911. However Lilian was no housewife and she handed her domestic duties to others.

“At the age of 17 Lilian became a photographic assistant to Alfred Drysdale. She then worked in various studios in the town to learn her craft. In 1909 her career accelerated when she opened her own studio at No. 4 The Crescent, with a dark room in the garden.

“The opening of such a business run by a woman in the genteel Crescent caused some disquiet, but from the beginning her business thrived, and soon a stream of local families and dignitaries were sitting for their portraits.

Lillian Ream's house, right Lillian Ream's house, right

“Lilian gradually took on more staff, many of them also women, and trained them in various skills - hand colouring, framing and the taking and developing of photographs. By 1921 she had effectively put her principal, male, rival out of business and she eventually moved her business from The Crescent into his premises - the Borough Studio, at 7 York Row (now Etcetera).

“The business continued to grow – she had always been well known for taking portraits, but she started to take images of outdoor life in Wisbech and the surrounding area; these included ordinary people at work in factories and in farming.

“Lilian retired to Eastbourne when she was in her seventies and her son Roland took over the business, which continued until 1971.

“She died in 1961 aged 84 and was buried in Walsoken churchyard. While many of the original negatives have been lost, a collection of over 10,000 has survived, and this is now known as The Lilian Ream Collection.

“It has been said that this archive of photographs is the most comprehensive record of its kind in Britain. In April 2013 Wisbech Society erected a blue plaque at 4 The Crescent in honour of Lilian Ream.”

Researchers from the Fenland Family History Society will be on hand to assist with soldiers’ military detail and their family history.

A team of leading experts on the Cambridgeshire Regiment, Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalion and Northamptonshire Regiment in WW1 will also be attending to help with identifying any general military pictures, medals or items and to assist visitors with research into their relatives’ wartime service.

A spokesman for the Cambs Regt 1914-18 said on social media: “Live close to Wisbech and interested in WW1? Want to find out about a relative’s wartime service or have WW1 items you want to know more about?”

For more information visit http://www.cambridgeshireregiment1914-18.co.uk/


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