Treasure in a skip

As digitising our main collection of plates has slowly but surely come to an end, we have lastly come to look at a lovely surprise we were gifted with earlier in the year, thanks to Rob Williams and Janet Rice. Below they have kindly put together an introduction to the plates and their history…

We are enormously pleased, and relieved, to have finally found the natural home for the 61 Glass Plate Negatives that Cliff Rice charged us with safeguarding for posterity.

Cliff Rice was born and lived in Biddulph Road, South Croydon, for his entire life, with the exception of a short period immediately after his marriage to Eva Mary Edgson in April 1947.  At that time, they lived with his grandmother in Ringstead Road, Sutton for about a year, while rebuilding what was to be their family home (inherited from his other grandmother) which had been completely demolished by a Blitz bomb.  He, his father and his German Shepherd (Rex) were living next door when the bomb fell, but, fortunately, lived to tell the tale!

Cliff had a strong interest in the local area, having spent his childhood exploring it with his friends, so, while out one day in Sutton, sometime between 1976 and 1990, he passed a skip in which he saw some glass plates.  He was always reluctant to dispose of items that might “come in handy” or be of interest to someone, so he spoke to the person who was putting more into the skip and asked whether he might have them.  They were taken home and stored in the loft, being brought out occasionally to show visitors, and to speculate about who might have an interest in them.

We have finally found who does have that interest!

We are lucky to have been gifted with most of the plates Cliff found in the skip in Sutton, with the rest going to archives at St John’s school in Leatherhead and St Philomena’s School in Carshalton, as their image content lies with these schools.

At such a late stage in the Past on Glass project it is great to have the anticipation of new plates and the satisfaction once again of revealing, cleaning and rehousing them into fresh sleeves. Our volunteers set to work their conveyor belt and upon scanning them it turns out that they’re a real mixed bunch of subjects, how they ended up randomly together in a skip we may never know. Today we are sharing some of the skips findings that we’ve been able to digitise so far…

A snowy winter scene at ‘Manor House’.


It was great to find more group photos of students and sports teams at Banstead Hall Boys School, Sutton High School for Girls and Rose Hill School.


We also had some unexpected finds, one being a group photo of the Royal family, featuring King Edward and Queen Alexandra, although the occasion or whereabouts we were not initially sure of. Bishop Bertram Pollock, on the far left, was the King’s Honorary Chaplain, and also the Headmaster of Wellington College. Amongst the plates we already have, are a few taken at Wellington College, and one in particular looks likely to have been taken on the same day on 14 December 1904, with Queen Alexandra in the same dress.



Already in the collection- Wellington College, reading the Charter to the King, 14 Dec 1904

Some of the plates were without names or numbers, so it wasn’t until after digitisation that to our delight we were able to spot Knights-Whittome himself amongst a group photo. Based on another photograph of Knights-Whittome with his wife and 2 boys, we can tell that this was taken in his back garden in Sutton, the elephant toy featured in that one too!


Knights-Whittome, perched on the front row

Finally, we are able to have a look inside Knights-Whittome’s own home at 24 Station Rd, Epsom with a photograph of his kitchen, although rather sparse.


Knights-Whittome shop in Epsom Colour scan from FB print 1024.jpg

Outside 24 Station Rd, which was also one of DKW’s studios

This small collection of plates which has found its way back to us, gives quite an accurate overview of David Knights-Whittome’s vast repertoire that we have become used to, a local school group one afternoon and a Royal portrait the next. Miraculously, having been thrown into a skip, it is surprising to find that there are few breakages, and Cliff certainly must have salvaged them just in time. There are unfortunately many with a classic diagnosis of peeling emulsion and stuck envelopes. We hope next to be able to send them to the conservator for them to work their magic and hopefully we’ll be able to digitise a couple more, then they can finally take their place back amongst the rest of the collection.

One thought on “Treasure in a skip

  1. Amazing to hear the story of these glass plates that were rescued from a skip!
    How lovely that they will be safely stored with the rest of the DKW collection.
    I always enjoy reading the latest updates and stories connected to the glass plates particularly as I was a volunteer myself with this project for a couple of years.

    Warm Wishes
    Jackie Porter

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person

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