WWI hoard of images ​​​​​​now on show at Cusworth Hall in Doncaster

First World War volunteer ladies - From The Studio exhibition at Cusworth Hall
First World War volunteer ladies - From The Studio exhibition at Cusworth Hall

A surprise wartime hoard of 100 -year-old photographs have been revealed for the first time at a new exhibition.

‘Stories from the Studio’, is a new exhibition now on show at Cusworth Hall in Doncaster.

A soldier returns home - from The Studio exhibition at Cusworth Hall

A soldier returns home - from The Studio exhibition at Cusworth Hall

The newly-discovered hoard of hundreds of First World War photographs, never seen before, will be providing an astonishing glimpse into the private lives of Doncaster’s wartime people, in a special, free exhibition at Cusworth Hall.

The fact that these 100 year-old photographs can be seen at all is thanks to four volunteers – Carol Hall, Ruth Scott-Chambers, Jean Walker and Jill Tomlinson.  Alongside project archivist Sandra Hicklin, they helped unearth the secrets of the hidden hoard, spending over 400 hours painstakingly scanning the images fresh from their original glass-plate negatives then discovering the stories behind each one, as part of Doncaster 1914-18, a four-year project supported by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), to mark the centenary of the First World War.

“It’s a real privilege to have been involved in the discovery,” explains Carol Hall, Doncaster 1914-18 volunteer.  “We were looking for wartime images in the Bagshaw Collection and thought there’d be a few hundred pictures, but we’ve ended up scanning more than one thousand over the past year.”

Carol adds: “It’s not just the quantity, but the quality of the photographs that’s so extraordinary.  They were all taken by a professional local photographer, Luke Bagshaw – either in his studio or out on location - and they show all sorts of life, really capturing the spirit of First World War Doncaster.  Young soldiers standing tall in their new uniforms for family keepsake photographs; wartime weddings and children dressing-up; women, proud to be working girls for the first time and doing their bit for the war.  And the stories we’ve uncovered – I had no idea!  I’m very glad that these photographs are getting a special exhibition.  In these pictures are local people, and you can almost see their faces out and about around Doncaster today.  I don’t want them to be forgotten.  These are people who could have lived in your house, or walked down your street.  Look what they did, what a difference they made to our lives today!”

A youngster in his tiny WWI uniform - from The Studio exhibition at Cusworth Hall

A youngster in his tiny WWI uniform - from The Studio exhibition at Cusworth Hall

In total, the project discovered 1058 images from the First World War, hidden within a much-larger collection of 14,000 glass-plate negatives from Doncaster’s Bagshaw & Son studio, taken between 1897 and 1944.  Over the past few years, the ‘Bagshaw Collection’ has been the subject of a significant archiving and conservation project by Heritage Doncaster, giving the Doncaster 1914-18 volunteers an ideal opportunity to investigate the archive for their First World War research for the first time.  The four volunteers worked tirelessly to research and scan each photograph from their original negatives, a complicated and time-consuming process, often taking up to a week to finish just 20 images, but meaning that this extraordinary photographic collection is now preserved safely for the future – for everyone to see.

“Thanks to their hard work, we can see these remarkable, 100 year-old photographs as good as new,” says Vicky Siviter, Digital Project Officer for Doncaster 1914-18.  “Some of the plates that they worked with were fragile, broken or even water-marked - not surprising after 100 years - so the volunteers have also been using technology to try and reverse time’s wear and tear, to make them as ‘true to life’, and visually engaging as the originals.  It’s all been so worthwhile: these pictures now bring the First World War and its people that much closer to us, and it’s easier to feel that sense of connection with our wartime ‘neighbours’.  Above all, the volunteers’ work means that Doncaster’s wartime people will never be forgotten, their faces and stories forever captured on a national digital archive that everyone in the country can share.  ‘Stories from the Studio’ is not just an exhibition commemorating the centenary of the First World War, it’s a tribute to volunteers like Carol Hall, Ruth Scott-Chambers, Jean Walker and Jill Tomlinson, who have given so much time, energy and care to the Doncaster 1914-18 project over the past four years.  A fitting finale.”

As a final word, Carol added: “This is not the end of the story.  We think there are even more First World War photographs out there, waiting to be discovered - maybe in your attic, or old family albums.”

For more, visit www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk. Admission is free to the exhibition at Cusworth Hall, but car parking charges apply, ranging from £1 for an hour to £6 for an all-day ticket.

A WWI soldier back home for his wedding day

A WWI soldier back home for his wedding day