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Old Photographs - Walking Pictures in Cambridgeshire

Photographers are listed alphabetically by surname on the following pages.

0 - 9 | Aa-Ak | Al-Ao | Ap-As | At-Az | Ba-Bak | Bal-Bam | Ban-Bd | Be-Bh | Bi-Bk | Bl-Bn | Bo-Bp | Br-Bt | Bu-Bz | Ca-Ck | Cl-Cn | Coa-Cor | Cos-Cz | Da-Dh | Di-Dq | Dr-Dz | Ea-Ec | Ed-Ez | Fa-Fh | Fi-Fz | Ga-Gd | Ge-Gq | Gr-Gz | Ha-Hd | He-Hh | Hi-Hn | Ho-Hz | Ia-Iz | Ja-Je | Jf-Jz | Ka-Kz | La-Ld | Le-Ln | Lo-Lz | Maa-Mad | Mae-Mar | Mas-Mb | Mc-Mi | Mj-Mz | Na-Nh | Ni-Nn | No-Nz | Oa-Oz | Pa-Pb | Pc-Ph | Pi-Po | Pr-Pz | Qa-Qz | Ra-Rd | Re-Rh | Ri-Rz | Sa-Sb | Sc-Sf | Sg-Sk | Sla-Slz | Sma-Ss | Sta-Std | Ste-Sth | Sti-Sy | Ta-Te | Tf-Ti | Tj-Tz | Ua-Uz | Va-Vz | Wa-We | Wf-Wh | Wi-Wz | XYZ

Walking Pictures in Cambridgeshire

We are most grateful to photo historians Paul Godfrey and Simon Robinson whose encyclopedic knowledge has helped us to make sense of the Cambridgeshire finds which appear below. We are also grateful to a number of members of the facebook groups for Fenland History and Peterborough Images who enthusiastically helped with examples from their family albums.

If you visited a British seaside resort any time between the 1920s and 1950s, chances are that, as you walked happily along the street or promenade, you would be snapped whilst unawares by a cameraman, who then accosted you and gave you a ticket and directions where you could go to get your holiday photographs later that day, or the following day. Some of the firms doing this provided you with walking pictures with a postcard back, so you could send a card to your friends or relatives to show what a great time you were having. As one firm advertised these photos were "A pleasing reminder of your walks around the town" (Littlehampton Gazette 15 August 1930). Another pointed out that "someone, somewhere would love your picture" (Dover Express 7 July 1933 p8).

Below are a couple of example photographer's tickets, from outside the County, for Walking Pictures. These illustrate how this trade was operated.

Two walking photographers' tickets from outside Cambridgeshire

Although this was a branch of photography normally associated with holiday resorts, "walking pictures" photographers also practiced elsewhere. Examples have now been found of "walking pictures" firms operating in both Cambridge and Peterborough. It is also believed that the odd Cambridgeshire photographer may have supplemented business by seasonal involvement in "walking pictures" outside the county.

We believe that what has been discovered so far may be just the tip of the iceberg and hope that this article will lead to many more examples of Cambridgeshire walking pictures being discovered in family albums. As one album owner reported "I wondered why people had their pictures taken whilst going about their everyday business".


It is impossible to unravel in detail the Sunfilms company history as official records are incomplete. Sunfilms appear to have operated from 1928 to 1948. Sunfilms company names have been found in various records as Sunfilms Ltd, Sunfilms (Parent Company) Ltd, Sunfilms (GB) Ltd and Sunfilms (Isle of Wight) Ltd, all associated with the name of Chairman / Director, Ernest Miles Hailey (1877-1951). Sunfilms Ltd appears to have been the initial, and, so far as can presently be ascertained, financially successful company. The others were separate entities, presumably to promote specific offshoot businesses, which all ended in financial collapse.

  • The earliest report found in the press was in The Bioscope 3 May 1928. "SUNFILMS, LTD.—Private company. Registered April 19th Capital, £l00. Objects : To carry on the business of photography, cinematography and the producing of photographs, films and film photographs in all its branches, etc. E. M. Hailey is first and permanent director and chairman. Registered office : 3, Little Gray's Inn Lane, E.C. 1." Sunfilms Ltd are recorded as photographers at this address in the 1932 Kelly's London Directory (they do not appear in any of the cinematograph trades in that Directory)
  • Sunfilms (Parent Company) Ltd 3, Little Gray's Inn Lane, E.C.1 appeared in the London Gazette: 20 Oct 1933 p.6781 petition for winding up presented by creditors Kodak Ltd; 3 Nov 1933 p.7182 notice of winding up order; 1 Dec 1933 p.7837, notification of creditors' meeting; 19 Jan 1934 p. 484 notice to creditors; 19 Jan 1934 p.507 appointment of Committee of Inspectors; 15 May 1936 p.3221, notice of intended dividend to shareholders; 14 July 1936 p.4571, dividend of one and one seventh of a penny per pound; 15 May 1937 p.3426 release of the liquidators; 24 Oct 1941 p.6201 company to be struck off the register in 3 months; 27 Jan 1942 p.459 company formally dissolved.)
  • Sunfilms (Isle of Wight) Ltd 3, Little Gray's Inn Lane, E.C.1 appeared in the London Gazette 24 Oct 1933 p.6863 meeting of creditors called by Director E.M.Hailey; 31 Oct 1933 p.7058 agreement to voluntary liquidation, E.M.Hailey Chairman; 19 Jan 1934 p.464 notice to creditors re winding up; 1 Mar 1935 p.1491 further meeting, notice to creditors.
  • Sunfilms (GB) Ltd 3, Little Gray's Inn Lane, E.C.1 appeared in the London Gazette 6 June 1947 p.2543, resolved to wind up, E.M.Hailey Chairman; 27 Aug 1948 p.4737 notice of winding up meeting.

Ernest Miles Hailey (1877-1951) was the son of a successful master plumber and started his career working in the property sector. In 1901 he was an estate agent's clerk and by 1911 he was manager to a property syndicate. Some time after this he moved into photography and by 1939 he was living in Barrie Street London W2 and described his occupation as "Director cinematography". We don't know whether he was claiming to be a cinematic film director, or a Director of a cinematograph company, but no trace has yet been found of Sunfilms involvement in cinematography. Ernest had other family connections with photography. His older brother was Thomas Clarence Hailey (1867-1949) a Newmarket photographer and bloodstock breeder and exporter. His other brother, Arthur John Hailey (1870-1951), was also a photographer in London. Short biographies for Arthur and Clarence are here: https://www.photolondon.org.uk/#/a-z?letter=h&page=1&name=Hailey and there is an entry for Clarence on our site here: www.fadingimages.uk/photoHa.asp.

The nature of Sunfilms' business can be found in a number of local newspaper advertisements which they ran in February 1930: "Walking Pictures. Latest model outfit for taking the above. Price £85 each. Free course of instruction given to purchasers. £20 to £15 per week can be made. Full particulars only from Sunfilms Ltd 3 Little Grays Inn Lane London EC1." (Littlehampton Gazette, Lincolnshire Chronicle, Hastings and St Leonards Observer, Sussex Agricultural Express etc) (The average UK salary in 1930 was £196 pa) . Sunfilms converted movie cameras which carried a larger magazine of film than still cameras, allowing the photographer to operate for far longer without the need to change film. In addition to this kind of franchised walking pictures business, Sunfilms also occasionally helped their clients with staffing; for example in the Worthing Gazette 28 April 1937 p.2 Sunfilms advertised for a saleswoman for the season in Worthing - applications to the Sunfilms office at Little Grays Inn Lane.

From other newspaper advertisements we can find that some Sunfilms photographers worked with a local agency. For example in Littlehampton with The Gazette Shop, in Plymouth with Pophams and in Bedford with Bradleys. The agency would have been the place to which the customer was directed to pick up their prints. We don't know the exact relationship between photographers and their nearby agent bases. In some cases the walking pictures business may have been led by the photographer, in others by the partnered agency. The other necessary component of a local walking pictures business was the developing of films and printing of photographs. Given the speed of operation required to offer customers their prints the next day, it seems likely that a walking pictures business would have either operated its own D and P facility, or in many cases, contracted this work to an existing local D and P works.

For more information about Sunfilms, please see Simon Robinson's excellent site https://gohomeonapostcard.wordpress.com/ . Simon portrays a range of Sunfilms' photographs and styles of presentation. He also lists the towns where he has found a Sunfilms business. In Cambridge the evidence of their presence, so far discovered, comes from a single walking picture kindly shared by its owner, local historian & landscape archaeologist Michelle Bullivant www.michellebullivant.com/. The photo shows Michelle's ancestor Ada Broom and friend in Cambridge, believed in St Andrews Street, in the 1930s. The two dots in the top margin probably indicates that this was the middle of a strip of three prints taken by the photographer. The reverse of the pint shows the name "Sunfilms" suggesting the franchisee was using Sunfilms provided materials. Also stamped on the reverse with an oval rubber stamp "Harry Johnson and Nephew, Cambridge, Booksellers and Stationers". So, either Harry Johnson and Nephew were diversifying by adding walking pictures to their offerings, or an entrepreneurial walking pictures photographer and Sunfilms franchisee was using Harry Johnson and Nephew as his selling agent and the place where customers could view and collect their snaps. Harry Johnson and Nephew was an entrepreneurial firm which was active in Cambridge from 1898 to at least 1948. They regularly advertised new products and services to their customers via the local press. Their offerings included the Edison Bell Phonograph, typewriters and typewriting services and training for typists, albums and picture frames, as well as books, newspapers and stationery. Their business acumen was demonstrated by them setting up a temporary branch of their business 1914-18 in Burrell's Walk Cambridge to service the needs of staff and patients at the nearby 1st Eastern General Hospital. Their address at 3 St Andrews Street places them literally yards from where the recently found walking pictures were taken. At this stage we have no idea where the Cambridge Sunfilms films were processed, but there are at least a couple of possibilities. One possibility would have been Turner and Sons (Cambridge) Ltd of 36 Trinity Street, 4 and 5 Peas Hill and 22 Petty Cury. We know that Turners did D and P work for Cambridge professionals as well as amateur photographers, from entries in the 1932 diary of photographers Ramsey and Muspratt at the nearby Post Office Terrace Studio. A second possibility would have been Horace Coulson and Co at 44 Bridge Street Cambridge who, in 1936, were advertising a 4 hour developing and printing service. (Cambridge Daily News 1 Aug 1936.)

Sunfilms photo, Cambridge, 1930s

Reverse Sunfilms print, Cambridge, 1930s

Sunfilms walking picture, back-stamped "Harry Johnson and Nephew, Cambridge, Booksellers and Stationers" (kindly shared by its owner, local historian & landscape archaeologist Michelle Bullivant www.michellebullivant.com/.)

Johnson and Nephew shopfront

Harry Johnson and Nephew's stationers, booksellers and newsagents at 3 St Andrews Street Cambridge, c.1916. This shop was situated immediately to the right of Post Office Terrace and to the left of St Andrew's Church, now the St Andrew's St pedestrian entrance to The Lion Yard. Produced with permission of the Cambridgeshire Collection (P.Joh.K0 12424).

Topical Pictures

Examples of Topical Pictures walking pictures from the 1930s have been found from both Cambridge and Peterborough. It is not currently known whether this was another firm, like Sunfilms, offering equipment, expertise and franchises to photographers setting up in walking pictures, or whether this was a straightforward walking photos business which had bases in Cambridgeshire and elsewhere.

First the evidence of "Topical Pictures" in Cambridgeshire. The photograph below of two ladies in leather coats was taken in Cambridge in 1936. The print is 2 1/2 x 2 1/8 inches. On the rear is printed “Photo by Topical Pictures” and handwritten by a past owner is“Cambridge 5 Oktober (sic) 1936”. The spelling of October with a "k" suggests the subjects and original owner of the photo may have been from overseas. This spelling is used in German, Dutch, Slovenian, Norwegian and Swedish. This photo was taken in St Andrews Street Cambridge with Christs College in the background. Below this is We are delighted to hear from Linda Downing who has in her possession the next photograph of her husband's grandparents, taken from a few yards away from the image above, with Christs College Cambridge in the background. The photo is by Topical Pictures, whose name appears stamped on the reverse. The two persons depicted are William James Mathews, born 1884 and Florence Louise Mathews, born 1889, both residents in Cambridge. The photo probably dates from the 1930s. (reproduced with the kind permission of Linda Dowling). Below this is a third Topical Pictures walking picture taken in the same spot in Cambridge and dated by a previous owner March 1936. Reproduced here with the kind permission of local historian & landscape archaeologist Michelle Bullivant www.michellebullivant.com/. Note that there are two different versions of the topical Pictures backstamp: "Photo by Topical Pictures" and simply "Topical Pictures"

Walking Picture, Topical Pictures, St Andrews St Cambridge October 1936

Walking Picture, Topical Pictures, St Andrews St Cambridge 1930s

reverse of Topical Pictures walking picture, 1930s

Walking Picture, Topical Pictures, St Andrews St Cambridge March 1936

reverse of Walking Picture, Topical Pictures, St Andrews St Cambridge March 1936

Below is a Topical Pictures walking picture of two young men, taken in Bridge Street Peterborough in the 1930s, George Hornsby is on the right. Below that is the reverse of the photo. We are most grateful to Paul Jennings for permission to use this family photograph.



The only name found so far which is associated with the management of Topical Pictures is Auguste Dumont (1892-1967). In the 1939 Register Auguste is shown as a photographer living at 5 Orme Road, Peterborough with his wife Gladys E Dumont b: 1904. Photo historian Paul Godfrey has linked Auguste Dumont with a walking pictures firm operating in Llandudno called "Topical Pictures". Topical Pictures used converted cine camera to take "walking photos" on the streets of Llandudno before WW2. Paul Godfrey discovered a report of a court case involving Auguste in the Liverpool Echo Monday 9th August 1937:

"REPLIES IN THE NEGATIVE  - PHOTOGRAPHERS' RIVALRY AT LLANDUDNO. Rivalry between two Llandudno firms of street photographers was alleged to be the cause of trouble which led to the appearance at Llandudno Police Court. to-day, of A. Dumont, described as proprietor of "Topical Pictures", Llandudno, on a charge of assault. Mr. J. E. Hallmark defended, and complainant was Frank Bowser, photographer, formerly in the employ of Dumont. for whom Mr. Robert Davies appeared. Bowser alleged that on July 7 the defendant caught him by the throat outside an hotel and two men had to drag him away. On that day Bowser had returned to his stand outside the hotel at 2.30 p.m. instead of 2 p.m. He had a conversation with Dumont (who was inside the hotel) and Dumont, telling him he was "finished”, tendered three days wages. which Bowser refused, claiming a week's pay in lieu of notice. Bowser left the hotel taking the camera with him, and Dumont followed outside and committed the assault.' Bowser said that three days afterwards he entered the employ of a rival firm and he alleged that Dumont and men in his employ frequently stepped in front of his camera. spoiling pictures which he was about to take. To Mr. Hallmark. Bowser denied that that was part of the game between the rival firms. Mr. Hallmark.—Is the firm with which you are now employed paying the cost of the case ? —They promised to lend me the money, but I do not know whether I will see it. Mr. Hallmark.—Have they been saying that at all costs they will get a case against Mr. Dumont !  —No. Mr. Hallmark said the defence was a total denial of the assault. He alleged it was a trumped-up charge. "The whole thing has been caused by bad blood between these rival photographic firms, who try, metaphorically speaking, to cut each other's throats. They are up to all sorts of tricks to try and ruin each other's businesses." said Mr. Hallmark. Denying the assault, Dumont alleged that Bowser, as he went out of the hotel, declared he would smash the camera. All he (Dumont) did was to grasp hold of the camera. The bench found that an assault was committed, and fined the defendant £1."

We do not know what brought Auguste from Llandudno to Cambridgeshire and to Peterborough by 1939. Nor do we know how long Topical Pictures operated in Cambridge outside March to October 1936. Peterborough was no holiday resort, but had a busy town centre.

The soft focus of the Cambridge prints and candid lack of apparent contact between photographer and subjects are similar to other Topical Pictures snaps from Llandudno.

We hope that more examples of Cambridgeshire walking pictures will come to light and help to fill some of the gaps in our knowledge about this branch of photography.

Starr and Rignall

Starr and Rignall was a Cambridgeshire firm based in Cambridge and Ely. However the photo below illustrates a different part of their business. This postcard is typical of the seaside town walking pictures where holiday makers were snapped in the street and offered the chance to call later at the studio / selling agency to pick up a print of their photograph. These "Walking Photographs" were also offered to the customer as postcards for them to send back home to friends and relatives. This example has the name on the reverse of Cambridge and Ely photographers Starr and Rignall. The little girl has a bucket and spade suggesting the seaside. We are most grateful to Paul Godfrey and Simon Robinson for identifying the location of this photograph as Pier Avenue, Clacton. Paul writes, "I know of two operators in Clacton taking this type of walkie photo. One is Sunfilms and I know very little about them. The other is Empire Films run by James Hobson. Empire Films were the photographic concession holder at the Butlin Holiday Camp at Clacton before WW2. After WW2 Butlins had their own photographic company and Ilford Limited were part owners." Solving the mystery of the location leaves another unanswered question. What was a Starr and Rignall photographer doing taking street photographs at Clacton. Did a photographer from Starr and Rignall go to the coast in the summer to take on this sort of seasonal work to expand the business? Or could this be Starr and Rignall doing developing and printing work for customers, and this is a customer's photograph printed with a Starr and Rignall postcard back?

postcard by Starr and Rignall - walking picture taken in Clacton

Other as yet unidentified walking pictures firms

It seems likely that other walking pictures photographers operated at different times in different parts of Cambridgeshire. It is hoped that this page may lead to other photographs being identified which in turn will lead to other practitioners. The walking picture below for example has no information about the photographer, but was taken in Long Causeway Peterborough in 1955/56.

Walking picture, unknown photographer, Long Causeway Peterborough 1955/6

So, has anybody got in their family albums any photos of friends or relatives snapped by a third party while walking along a Cambridgeshire Street. If so, can we see some examples please (and please show both sides of the photo so that we can find out more about those who practiced this trade locally).

Top of page

Photographers are listed alphabetically by surname on the following pages.

0 - 9 | Aa-Ak | Al-Ao | Ap-As | At-Az | Ba-Bak | Bal-Bam | Ban-Bd | Be-Bh | Bi-Bk | Bl-Bn | Bo-Bp | Br-Bt | Bu-Bz | Ca-Ck | Cl-Cn | Coa-Cor | Cos-Cz | Da-Dh | Di-Dq | Dr-Dz | Ea-Ec | Ed-Ez | Fa-Fh | Fi-Fz | Ga-Gd | Ge-Gq | Gr-Gz | Ha-Hd | He-Hh | Hi-Hn | Ho-Hz | Ia-Iz | Ja-Je | Jf-Jz | Ka-Kz | La-Ld | Le-Ln | Lo-Lz | Maa-Mad | Mae-Mar | Mas-Mb | Mc-Mi | Mj-Mz | Na-Nh | Ni-Nn | No-Nz | Oa-Oz | Pa-Pb | Pc-Ph | Pi-Po | Pr-Pz | Qa-Qz | Ra-Rd | Re-Rh | Ri-Rz | Sa-Sb | Sc-Sf | Sg-Sk | Sla-Slz | Sma-Ss | Sta-Std | Ste-Sth | Sti-Sy | Ta-Te | Tf-Ti | Tj-Tz | Ua-Uz | Va-Vz | Wa-We | Wf-Wh | Wi-Wz | XYZ