Gallery: Liverpool publisher discovers 2,000 Lilian Ream photograph negatives at auction in Wales

PUBLISHED: 11:45 03 September 2009 | UPDATED: 09:14 02 June 2010

Lilian Ream copy pictures  Robert Bell and David Oliver

Lilian Ream copy pictures Robert Bell and David Oliver

Story by: MAGGIE GIBSON A BOOK of previously unseen photographs chronicling life in Wisbech during the last century could be compiled after an exciting discovery by a Liverpool publisher. Negatives of 2,000 photographs taken by Wisbech photographer Lilian

Lilian Ream copy pictures  Robert Bell and David Oliver

Story by: MAGGIE GIBSON

A BOOK of previously unseen photographs chronicling life in Wisbech during the last century could be compiled after an exciting discovery by a Liverpool publisher.

Negatives of 2,000 photographs taken by Wisbech photographer Lilian Ream were bought by Colin Wilkinson at an auction in Wales during the 1990s. He says they are of national importance.

Mr Wilkinson recently visited Wisbech with copies of some of the photographs, 100 of which will be on show at the forthcoming Heritage Weekend. He had contacted the trust some years ago but nothing came of it.

Lilian Ream copy pictures  Robert Bell and David Oliver

Describing the collection as being one of the best and most comprehensive he has ever seen, Mr Wilkinson is keen to work with the Trust and hopes to put together a book of life from cradle to grave in the Wisbech area. The photographs show the building and opening of the town bridge, the building of the quay, agricultural scenes, town events, shops and school groups.

Mr Wilkinson said: "It is the best social archive I have ever seen and it is certainly of national importance and I don't think enough is being made of it. It is really a classic case of the under exploitation of a very valuable resource.

"I don't think there is any other photographic collection which gives such in-depth coverage of every aspect of town life. A book would be an important stepping stone in getting this collection more widely known."

Mr Wilkinson has no idea who sold the negatives but he bought the lot unseen for around £700. Lilian Ream trustees believe the negatives could have gone missing when the cellar of Lilian Ream's Borough Studio was cleared.

Trustee Ray Wicks bought the derelict Borough Studio premises in Bridge Street in 1980 to open his shop Etcetera. Thousands of negatives were still in the cellar and were taken away to be stored.

Lilian Ream began her photographic career aged 17 and started her own studio in 1909. She took over other photographic businesses in Wisbech and retired aged 72 in 1949. The family firm she built up continued until 1971 taking photographs of local people, places and events

Around 200,000 negatives were acquired by Cambridgeshire Libraries in 1981 and in 1993 they were handed over to a newly formed charitable trust.

Mr Wicks said: "When I saw the photographs I was taken aback. They are very exciting and it will be good if we can work together and explore what can be done with these."

Chairman of the Trustees Robert Bell said new technology and the availability of grants would help to make the collection more accessible. The public will soon have the opportunity to view pictures from the collection online and add any information they may have. There will also be a rolling programme of temporary displays.

Mr Bell said: "I think Mr Wilkinson has a genuine interest in bringing this collection to the attention of the public nationally and we hope to work with him."

Reproductions of the new photographs can be seen at The Wisbech Institute Tower Ballroom in Scrimshires Passage next Friday (September 11) from 2-8pm, Saturday September 12 from 9.30am-5pm and Sunday September 12 from 11am-4pm.


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