The Museum’s Photograph Collection began with the photographs taken as part of the Photographic Survey of Wimbledon organised by the Wimbledon Society (then called the John Evelyn Club) from 1905. In the late 19th and early 20th century hundreds of amateur photographers all over England took part in the Survey movement. The idea was to record material remains of the English past before they disappeared forever. The ethos of the Survey movement, as expressed by one of its founders, Sir Benjamin Stone, called on photographers to “throw overboard all cherished notions of composition and be content to proceed in an unblushingly realistic and matter of fact way”. In spite of this stern injunction, many of the pictures made as contributions to our Survey are very pleasing to look at, as well as being a matchless documentary source for the history of Wimbledon.
Through the 20th century, and into the 21st , the Museum has continued to collect photographs which record the built environment of Wimbledon, as well as its natural beauties. We also have portrait photographs of its inhabitants: famous and obscure, alone and in groups, at work and at play. And we have photographic records of many significant local events of the twentieth century.
Two of the earliest photographs in the Collections are: