Photographing Bentham for the Millennium

David Johnson

 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

After years devoted to collecting old photographs of Bentham and bemoaning the fact that the Victorians never considered undertaking a comprehensive survey I decided that the millennium offered the opportunity to correct this situation and provide a valuable pictorial source for the future. With the assistance of fifteen other photographers, (many from Bentham Camera Club), and financial support from the North Craven Heritage Trust we set about this ambitious project in June 1998.

Other groups may consider a similar project and I hope this account may help them. To keep costs to a minimum I used The Bentham News to appeal for gifts of film. A surprising amount was donated but it was still necessary to make a bulk purchase from Truprint. Without pushing the virtues of this postal system too much I must say the results were quite satisfactory and using a system of a 'free' return film we were able to keep costs down to a reasonable level.

We decided to make a photographic record of every building, barn and bridge in the parishes of High and Low Bentham. To achieve this the parish was divided into fifteen areas using roads, streams and rivers to demarcate boundaries. The sixteenth person devoted his time to photographing bridges and barns. Some people had large areas with scattered settlements, others had much smaller town centre districts which involved a lot of photography. Everybody had three months to complete their project. The photographs were returned to me with a label on the back stating the date the photograph was taken, the area number and the name of the building.

During the winter months it was necessary to give each picture a unique identity. To achieve this I gave each of the 1200 pictures a number. This was based on the area number, the film number and the negative number on the film. In addition each picture has been given a six or eight figure national grid reference number. You will see from the photograph that Gale House has a reference of 11/1/17 675676. In other words it is in area 11 and the negative is number 17 on film 1 of that area. The six numbered sequence is the National Grid reference.

There is some concern about the permanence of colour prints and with this in mind the basic facts have been added to a label attached to the front of each photograph and an application is planned by Bentham Camera Club to the Millennium small grants project for funds to have the pictures scanned onto computer disk.

Three more stages remain. First pictures will be put in rank order. It seems sensible to put all the pictures of one building together as a group and this does not always happen because of complications with the angle of the sun etc. Once sorted each picture will receive its own number in the rank order. The pictures can then be stored in albums. The second step is to define the different areas on the map and mark each building with its rank order number before finally, cataloguing everything! With security in mind we plan to put the information into Bentham's Local History Resource Unit at the town library and to store the negatives separately. It is hoped to finish the project before the end of the year but as you can see there is still plenty to do!