Photograph donated to the Image Archive by Nick Wiggin.

One of the huge benefits of the internet is that it facilitates access by those who have a computer, smart phone or tablet to a wealth of ‘content’ (the buzzword for stuff on the web: images, video, articles and all sorts of information) which might previously have been buried in paper archives or libraries (or a box under somebody’s bed). Take the above photograph as an example. Found in the Wiggin – an Ipswich Society Album on our online Image Archive, this carefully posed portrait of two women cyclists is by photographic pioneer and Ipswich chemist John Wiggin (1818-1879). One assumes that this view dates from the mid-late Victorian era: the ‘rational’ dress of, presumably, divided-skirt, jacket, high-necked blouse and straw boater speaks of the first time that women could be free enough in society to ride a bicycle. Shocking to the staid populous. But look closer. The near-identical velocipedes with the bell on the left handlebar, similarly the poses adopted by the women, even their profiles and expressions. The anonymous sunken lane in winter (somewhere just outside Ipswich?) seems to add to the overall mystique of this moment captured by Wiggin’s wet-plate camera – no doubt the exposure time would have been quite long in those days. Magical.


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