Colin Wootton writes:
Victorian photographer S.W.A.Newton, of Leicester, made a comprehensive photographic record of the construction of the Great Central Railway between 1896 and 1900. The railway has long gone but fortunately his photographic record remains. Travelling by train and bicycle he also visited and photographed street scenes in villages near to the new railway. The glass plate negatives he produced would have required a large camera and a sturdy tripod and the plates would have needed careful transportation back to his father’s photographic business in Leicester for processing. He produced almost 1000 photographs and the whole undertaking must have indeed been a labour of love! A high resolution digital scan of one of these photographs, of Manor Road, Sulgrave, has now been acquired and reveals the then street scene in quite astonishing detail. From this scan it has been possible to make some very interesting enlargements of people and objects in Manor Road, which can be seen on the next page.
Outside the dwelling now known as “Harry’s Cottage”. When this photograph was taken between 1896 and 1900, hats for both sexes and all ages were “de rigueur” and it’s very rare to see a hatless person in images from that period.
More hats! Could the lady on the left be a school teacher? At that time the school had been open for less than ten years. The earliest photograph of the school suggests a head master and a lady assistant. Could this be her? An object is being held rather threateningly by the lady on the right. What could it be? Did Newton need to take cover?
This smart young man must have been born in about 1890. Assuming him to be a village boy who remained in the village he would have been a mere 56 in 1946 when I was eight years old! However, I don’t recognise the features as belonging to anyone I remember from that time. Any boy born around 1890 was likely to have been caught up in the Great War. A nineteen year old Sulgrave boy was killed in 1918….. The Star Inn sign can be clearly seen in this picture and with a little imagination the shape of a star can be made to fit the panel. At that time the Star had a wooden fence along the narrow front garden, where a low wall now stands. A cottage between the Star and the property now known as Endways has obviously been demolished since the picture was taken. In general outline, the cottages behind the cart are not much changed since those days.
“The Three Compasses” was one of four village inns but by 1925 it had become the village post office, remaining in that use until the 1950s. It is now a dwelling house known as “Apple Acre”. The detailed nature of Newton’s photograph enables the sign to be seen more clearly than in any other contemporary photograph.
The “Three Compasses” entrance door is not particularly welcoming and suggests a common beer house rather than an inn. The lower part of the sign above the door almost certainly says “Licensed retailer of beer, spirits, liqueurs and tobacco but it’s not possible to make out the name of the landlord in the top line. Could the bicycle possibly belong to the photographer, S.W.A.Newton? It seems to have a large, possibly leather, case hanging from the handlebars – perhaps a container for photographic plates?
1962. This photograph was taken fifty-four years ago i.e. sixty four years after the Newton photograph. Little has changed. There is an almost complete absence of cars. Harry (Reynolds) still lived in “Harry’s Cottage” and the mini outside belonged to his son, Geoff.
Manor Road, November 2016. Once again, little has changed. However, the Star and other buildings are masked by the flowering cherry which I have always considered to be an inappropriate choice of species, badly sited in the verge. I appreciate that I may be prejudiced because it spoils my favourite view of the street!
Further down Manor Road, November 2016. The Star Inn, showing the gap between the inn and “Endways” where a cottage can be seen in the Newton photograph.
Manor Road in 1910 – see http://sulgrave.org/2010/02/old-painting-re-united-with-the-village/