An Edwardian Family Album at Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool

By Culture24 Staff | 21 October 2009
a black and white photograph of a girl in an Edwardian smock sitting in a boat on a lake holding a small fish

© National Museums Liverpool. Heather Price

Exhibition: An Edwardian Family Album: Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool, October 23-May 3 2010

An exhibition of recently discovered photographs that shed light on the life of a Wirral family from the Edwardian era is going on display at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool

An Edwardian Family Album features the intimate snapshots of the Urton family in the second decade of the 20th century, and offers a fascinating glimpse into their daily lives and leisure pursuits.

a black and white photograph showing a family group sat in sand dunes

© National Museums Liverpool. Heather Price

Many of the photographs in the 40-strong collection show draughtsman Jack Urton, his wife Biddy and their young daughters Mary and Lois in the carefree sunny days marking the period immediately before the First World War.

"This more personal, intimate view of an Edwardian family evokes a bygone age," says Jane Duffy, head of the Lady Lever Art Gallery. "The pictures resonate today with an immediacy and familiarity that recalls our own family photographs."

The revealing social document includes family life at home in the garden, with relatives and friends and on days out locally and further afield.

a black and white photo of a small group of people on a beach with a large tower in the background

© National Museums Liverpool. Heather Price

Beauty spots and resorts in the photos include the Wirral and further afield including the Derbyshire countryside, all taken by keen amateur photographer Jack who lived in Birkenhead and later Bebington.

The Urtons made many outings to the Wirral coastline, and Jack photographed their day trips to the sand hills of Wallasey and New Brighton. We see them setting up camp on the beach complete with large tent and campfire.

a black and white photo of a family on a riverbank fishing

© National Museums Liverpool. Heather Price

Mary and Lois are snapped wearing their bathing suits and caps while Jack and Biddy paddle almost fully clothed in suits and full-length skirts. In its Edwardian heyday the resort of New Brighton catered for day-trippers as well as people on their annual holidays.

The photos even show the famous New Brighton Tower, which opened in 1900 and was demolished in 1921.

Technological improvements in the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods meant cameras became more portable, and families no longer relied on commercial or professional photographers with formal studio portraits. A number of amateur photography groups sprang up on the Wirral.

a black and white photograph of a man and a child paddling in the sea

© National Museums Liverpool. Heather Price

An Edwardian Family Album was the idea of Wirral-based photography enthusiast David Price, who died in 2008. Some years ago he was given a collection of more than 500 glass plate negatives found in a friend's attic.

Covering the period around 1900 to the early 1920s, they were still in their original boxes and paper sleeves and many were labelled with dates, locations and subjects.

Only the negatives survived, so the plates have been scanned and enlarged to create the prints in the exhibition.

© National Museums Liverpool. Heather Price

An Edwardian Family Album by David and Heather Price is published by Alyn Books, available from the Lady Lever Art Gallery shop (£9.99).

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