When seven local residents got together in the Coffee Tavern next to George Lane station to form the Woodford Photographic Society on 9 October 1893, little did they expect that their efforts would still be bearing fruit over a century later. From a membership of 15 at the end of that first year, the club grew rapidly, reaching a high point of 104 in 1906. The low point was undoubtedly 2009 when, had fate not intervened, the club would have closed down at that year’s AGM. But even in years of high membership, poor attendance at meetings seems to have been a regular complaint throughout the club’s long life.
We’ve had some eminent members over the years. From 1899 until his death in 1908, one of Woodford Photographic Society’s members (and chairman in 1902–1903) was Alfred Horsley Hinton. Hinton was a photographer of world renown (you can read his Wikipedia entry at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Horsley_Hinton
), the founder of the Linked Ring (a rival to the Royal Photographic Society), and editor of Amateur Photographer magazine.
William Wastell was another distinguished early member. He joined Woodford Photographic Society in 1899 and regularly attended until at least 1928; he was chairman in 1913–1914. Wastell was also president of the Royal Photographic Society in 1922–1923, and mayor of Wanstead & Woodford Borough Council during 1939–1940. Using the nom-de-plum 'The Walrus’, for many years he wrote a column entitled ‘Piffle’ in Amateur Photographer. After 25 years of ‘Piffle’ he started a series ‘With the Beginners’, which continued until 1941
Several members have also gained photographic distinctions, the latest being awarded his Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS) at the end of 2017.
Women were not permitted to join the club until 1922, so 2022 will see another important anniversary. We’ve had many chairmen over the years, but only four women in that role – we need to improve on that. Our longest continually serving chairman was Peter Smith, in post for eight years from 1998 until 2006; but the chairman with the longest overall record was George Hall with 11 years in total spread across several periods between 1945 and 1959.
When the club was founded, it had three aims: i) the advancement of photography, technically and artistically; ii) for the society to take its place amongst the foremost in the kingdom; and iii) to do something of value to the community. This third aim has been the basis for a series of photographic surveys of the Woodford area over the last 100 years or more. The resulting prints form a valuable archive and were always deposited with the local authority. Today they can be seen today on request to Redbridge Heritage Service at the Central Library in Ilford.
For the first 105 years of the club’s existence, it met in a variety of locations in Woodford. In 1998, we began meeting in Wanstead, initially at a former dance studio named ‘Dulverton’, and since 2014 at Wanstead House. It therefore made sense to add ‘Wanstead’ to the club’s name, but it was not until 2017 that the name on the club’s cheque book was finally changed.
A comprehensive history of the club was written in 1968 for the occasion of its 75th anniversary. This was added to at the start of the 21st century and brought up to date in time for the club’s 125th anniversary in 2018.