Brief History of the Club

Sevenoaks and District Photographic Society: the 1920s

The earliest references we have found to organised amateur photography in Sevenoaks are in 1922. On 11 September that year, the Council of the Royal Photographic Society meeting “admitted to Affiliation” the Sevenoaks and District Photographic Society. The formal development of the group had started in May that year after suggestions by the Literary & Debating Society via Mr W H House, a Sevenoaks solicitor and photography enthusiast.

A number of local notables were involved, including Colonel J M Rogers of Riverhill, Dr Gordon Ward, J Brunton (professional photographer), H G Wallis of Lady Boswell’s School (who was the Society’s first Honorary Secretary) G Bradbury and others. “Ladies and gentlemen” were asked to be Vice-Presidents. The only one so far identified was Captain C W R Knight, a celebrated local naturalist and photographer, renowned for looking after a golden eagle that he named Mr Ramshaw.

First subscriptions for adults were 10s 6d pa (52.5p). Juniors would be charged 5s pa (25p). Meetings included lectures, demonstrations and summer outings. For example, in June 1923 the Society visited Knole to photograph the courtyard and garden. Later that year H G Wallis was commended in the Tunbridge Wells Arts & Crafts Exhibition for two Knole pictures – perhaps taken during the visit?

On 9 October 1922 the Society had put on a public talk by Capt Knight at the Club Hall. Reserved seats cost 5/9d or 3/6d, unreserved were 2/4d or 1/3d. There was a large audience but it gave rise to correspondence in the local paper. An audience member wrote in to complain that no vote of thanks had been given to Capt Knight at the end of the talk. A letter from the Society's Secretary appeared in the same edition explaining that the person due to give the thanks could not make his way to the front through the large crowd!

We have no information about the Society after 1926, and a column in the Sevenoaks Chronicle in 1944 says that it was one of the largely forgotten local societies that had emerged after the First World War. If anyone knows more about this group, we'd be delighted to hear from you.

The current club

The story of the current Club begins in 1952 when discussions were held by local enthusiasts about starting a photographic group in Sevenoaks. (There was no obvious link to the earlier Society.) The first formal meeting was held in late 1952. In 2002 at the time of our 50th anniversary a former Chairman, Eric Keys, found a humorous anecdote about refreshments at early Club meetings: see his report in our Newsletter.

In our first decade the evidence is that we were a thriving Club, with some highly regarded members, and we had our successes within the Kent County Photographic Association print competitions. The earliest Club programme (or “syllabus” as it was called then) we have found is for the 1958 to 1959 season.

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the membership decline significantly, but we overcame that temporary difficulty and have built a thriving membership once again. In 1992 another former Chairman and one of our founder members, Arthur Green, penned some memories of the first 40 years of the Club for our Anniversary celebrations. Read his story from our newsletter.

Membership numbers have fluctuated over the last 25 years, but we now (2019) have about 60 members, with a high proportion coming along regularly to our meetings. Our visiting judges and speakers almost inevitably comment on the friendly nature of the Club.

We try to be active in the KCPA, and have hosted their annual slide competition - the Handley Shield - twice, and to celebrate our own 50th anniversary we hosted the equivalent for prints in 2003 - the Ross Cup. And Sevenoaks members have been President and Hon Treasurer of the KCPA.

In their issue of 18 February 2017 the magazine Amateur Photographer published a one-page article about the Club. With their permission you can see a copy of the article.