C O V E N T R Y P H O T O G R A P H I C S O C I E T Y
Active preparations are being made to mark, in fitting style, the centenary of the Coventry Photographic Society.
In June 1883 when Gladstone was in his second term of office and the Photographic Society of Great Britain had not yet attained its 'Royal t status, ten Coventry gentlemen met in the Provident Dispensary Priory Street and decided to form a photographic society. Thus club photography in Coventry was born. The society was called "the Coventry and Midland Photographic Society". Note the use of the word "Midland" In 1883 only five Photographic Societies existed in the Country so it was evident that the members could hopefully be drawn from a wide area, and it is noteworthy that the Birmingham Photographic Society was formed in '1881'.
For twenty years the Society held to its title, became the Coventry Photographic Club for thirty years, then changed to The Coventry Photographic Society and it so remains.
The first Minute Book is a social document of considerable importance. It records in hand written detail the problems of the times, in finding meeting rooms, costs, details of lectures, outings, and processes, even personalities attendant in founding the club. Finances were at times strained. One year the first two entries on the Balance Sheet read:
Cash in hand 2s 0d
Cash in Bank 7d
so the two joint Secretaries contributed £2 2s 0d to keep the club solvent. We have thankfully never been in low financial water since.
The list of names of our earliest members reads almost like a Coventry trade directory Rotherhams, Riley, Sturmey, Starley, Waters, Iliffe, Curtis, Astley, Payne etc. etc.
Up to 1899 'The Dispensary' and then The Technical Institute, Earl Street were general meeting places. After that date the headquarters were at 7 Little Park Street where a darkroom costing £8 12s 11d to equip was a very valuable asset, the membership increased from fifty-three in 1899 to one hundred in 1910. From 1928 the Y.M.C.A. became our home with a break during and after the war when we had a succession of temporary addresses until we obtained our present rooms at the Charterhouse, London Road.
It is a point of pride that club activities have never ceased even during the Coventry Air Raids with with few interruptions it was "Business as Usual" lectures were continued in the Y,M.C.A. rooms with black—out material, but no glass in the windows. Photographic material was of course rationed and hard to obtain.
Society activities are not so different now from what they were in later years of the last century. Our outings are no longer by cycle or horse—brake we just go farther afield. We must record one outing of 1891. A horse—brake took members to Coombe Abbey, the seat of the Earl of Craven. On leaving the members were presented with some peaches by the head gardener who said "they could develop them on the way home".
Public exhibitions of photography have been held since 1899. Print portfolios and and nowadays colour slide folios have always been well supported by members, and in these days lady members take a full and active part in all club activities, at times outscoring their male colleagues which would have been unheard of in early days.
The Society has always maintained a close relation with neighbouring clubs to mutual advantage, and have been closely associated with the Midland Counties Photographic Federation since its formation in 1907.
In our centenary year it is intended to amplify club activities befitting the occasion. Special lectures, demonstrations, outings and social events are being planned. The Alfred Herbert Art Gallery will display not only present day work by members, but hopefully a retrospective exhibition covering past years. But without doubt perhaps THE highlight of the year will be the opening of a letter at the centenary dinner left sealed and signed in 1943 — forty years ago — to be opened when the Society became one hundred years old. We look forward with keen anticipation to this event and to the continued progress and prosperity of the Society.
W. A. WATSON, B.E.M.