From 1904-1918, 18 High Street, Sutton, South London (then Surrey) was occupied by David Knights-Whittome; ‘Photographer to the King’. From this small shop, named ‘The Studio, Sutton’, and another premises at 24 Station Road, Epsom, Knights-Whittome produced thousands of photographs of local people, places, events and institutions as well as images of country houses, aristocratic events and the Royal Family during a seminal period in British history. In 1918, Knights-Whittome abandoned professional photography and moved away from Sutton altogether, eventually taking up a career in local politics in Hertfordshire. The vast collection of glass plate negatives he had produced during this period were left behind in the cellar of the shop and over time were largely forgotten.
In 1988, the building housing 18 High Street – later occupied by Linwood Strong optician – was demolished, but not before the photographic legacy of this remarkable man was discovered by a member of the public and removed to the Sutton archive service. The collection, of over 10,000 glass plate negatives, has remained undocumented and unseen by the public for close to 100 years. In 2014, a Heritage Lottery Fund grant enabled work on this important and endangered archive to begin and today around half of the collection has been conserved, digitised and catalogued. A second award was granted in the summer of 2016 which will hopefully see the completion of this vital work. Currently, work is ongoing to save, conserve and digitise the remaining glass plates which represent a lost generation of men, women and children with connection to Sutton, Epsom and the surrounding areas. As the collection is revealed plate by plate the true historical importance of the collection to the borough is only now being revealed.
The David Knights-Whittome Glass Plate Collection is held at Sutton Local Studies & Archives Centre, based at Sutton Central Library, St Nicholas Way, Sutton SM1 1EA. Digitised images from the collection can be viewed on our Flickr site.
For all enquiries relating to the material, or to volunteer, please fill in the contact form below or contact the project officer Abby Matthews directly on 020 8770 4746 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For all other queries relating to the Archives or local history please contact Kath Shawcross, the Borough Archivist and Local Studies Manager on 020 8770 4747 or email: email@example.com.