Stradbroke has been extraordinarily fortunate in having four photographers of note in the village who have provided a record from the very earliest days of photography in the 1860s right up to the present day when digital photography has made it easy and cheap for everyone. In those early days it was a very expensive activity. it was a question of taking glass plates and embarking on the long process of coating them with a layer of sensitive chemicals before being able to take a photograph. Immediately afterwards, each plate had to be developed and fixed by the photographer using a sequence of other chemicals.


The first known photographer in the village was Henrietta Ryle, the third wife of the famous Vicar of Stradbroke John Charles Ryle. While she was living here she took a number of photographs of the inhabitants of Church Street and Queen Street wearing the full finery of top hats and crinolines. She also took the photograph shown here when there were cottages in the churchyard on Church Street. These cottages were demolished in 1871 as part of the great refurbishment of the Church organised by John Ryle. While he was living here, John Ryle was also responsible for building the Primary School. Henrietta photographed the opening ceremony in 1863 and also took a photograph of it from the top of the Church Tower in the same year. After leaving Stradbroke, John Ryle became the first Bishop of Liverpool in 1890.



Henrietta was followed by William Girling who had the shop that eventually became 'Wards' and now the ' Daily Care Agency'. He was a man with a true artistic photographer's eye and was very much in demand for producing elegant countryside scenes around the village. A photograph album belonging to his daughter Miriam also surfaced in Lowestoft Library and the photographs in it have been added to the village archive.

This photograph of a man harrowing with four horses is surely a triumph of the art of photography at any period.




The third photographer was Harry Webb. He was the Postmaster of Stradbroke before and after the First World War and it was he who received the telegrams during the war notifying those in the village that yet another young man had been killed. On receiving the news he immediately called Herbert Bayles, the verger to toll the church bell for an hour. It was also Harry Webb who had the only clock in the village. He used to receive a signal by telegraph every morning at 10.00 a.m. precisely and so was able to set the time for the village correctly for that day.

Harry established his own studio behind his shop as photography got cheaper and he was always ready to photograph favourite horses or vehicles outside in front of the Courthouse. He was an enterprising man and published many of his own and earlier photographs as postcards for sale. Many of them have survived, including this one of Stradbroke Railway Station in 1908, taken just after the railway arrived in the village.

GJan1.2000The fourth photographer was Geoffrey Smith and in many ways he was the most important of them all. He took many photographs himself but It was also he who was responsible for rescuing the glass plates of his predecessors. He had found them piled up in a heap in a garden shed, took care of them and then sent them to the Record Office in Ipswich for safe-keeping. He also made some copies and from time to time he gave shows in the village.

One of Stradbroke's Millennium Projects was to examine all of about 2000 glass plates which were stored in the vaults of the Suffolk Record Office. Slides and digital scans were made of all those that were of Stradbroke. It was as a result of this  Initiative by Roy Farrow, Maureen John and Gerald Jenkins that the framed pictures you can see about the village are once again visible to the inhabitants of Stradbroke. 

A large exhibition of them was unveiled for the first time in the Church on the morning of January 1st 2000, Millennium Day, the first time that some had been seen for perhaps a hundred years!