Peering into town’s lost past

A snapshot of the good, the bad and the ugly history of Wisbech is being offered in a new exhibition of Lilian Ream photographs being displayed in the shop windows of three town centre businesses.

The Lilian Ream Museum of the Streets Exhibition will use some of the mammoth hoard of photographs taken by the woman who from the early 1900s compiled a unique visual record of the town over half a century – and the images are mostly taken from the collection of around 200,000 negatives which are cared for by the Lilian Ream Exhibition Gallery Trust.

Trust chairman Robert Bell said:  “We are very pleased to be working with Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House and the Octavia Hill Society to make these images available to schools and the general public in this creative way.”

The exhibition, which runs from Monday, September 14 to Sunday, October 4, is a joint venture involving the Octavia Hill museum at 7 South Brink, the first home of the town’s most famous daughter, and the Octavia Hill Society and will be visible 24/7.

Mr Peter Clayton, chairman of the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum Trust, said:  “One of the long-term things we are doing is encouraging schools to appreciate the history of Wisbech and we are providing an opportunity for children to satisfy the outdoor learning element of the primary school national curriculum.”

Six boards displaying a range of photos will go on display in three shops and a family trail will lead visitors from one section of the exhibition to the next.

Free gifts of badges and pencils will be available at all three sites.   These include the Lilian Ream Studio, which is now the home of Etcetera and the Post Office at 7 York Row, Wisbech, PE13 1EB, Riverside Interiors at 24/26 Old Market, PE13 1NB and A Bit of a Do at 25 Hill Street, PE13 1BA.

Entries for a prize draw based on questions asked at each of the three venues will need to be submitted by midnight on Tuesday, October 6 and the draw, with prizes of £60, £40 and £20, will be made on Wednesday, October 7.

Mr Clayton said:  “It is clear from Lilian Ream’s photographs that the people of this Fenland town remained rooted in the lifestyles of the past they had endured.   They remained distinctively independent and suspicious of outsiders.

“It was no coincidence that contrarian local heroes, including Octavia Hill, Thomas Clarkson, Jonathan Peckover and William Godwin, undertook projects which changed the world.

“Although many of the Wisbech photographs were taken after Queen Victoria’s death, the people remained rooted in the history that they had endured.”