Whenever one opens the Flickr app containing the Image Archive (having clicked on the button at the bottom of the Society’s website), one can always be surprised by new additions, comments from people who have looked at the site, or the new albums which have been compiled from existing photographs and become aware of how addictive the images can be.

Activity in updating the site is sporadic, but there is certainly always something new to find – if one has a search… you enter at the ‘Albums’ page and can see the range of albums compiled by us and open each one for a quick look.



How to search the Image Archive

To search, select ‘Photostream’ from the choices beneath the title banner, locate the lower magnifying glass icon, click it and then enter a search word or term in the box at the top of the page – as shown above. This method searches only the Ipswich Society images (rather than the whole of the Flickr website, which is enormous); it will lead you to many images from our collection which contain the search word – or none, if the term does not feature in any descriptions of the image.  

The Image Archive which has been around on the web since 2012 comprises nearly 10,000 photographs. These have been brought together from generous contributors as well as those collections which have been put together for particular purposes; for example, the Awards Albums. We have many albums which have been donated by members who now require the space taken up by slide boxes or photo albums or some sent on after a house clearance when a member has died. These physical formats have to be converted to digital files.

As the curator of the Image Archive it often falls to me to compile albums like the ones just mentioned with a photographic expedition and search of existing images. A simple search is made of the stream of photographs for a keyword such as ‘football’ and all those images which result from that search term may then be compiled into a new album.

Sometimes albums are formed when requested by interested parties to celebrate events, such as the recent additions to the Society’s Blue Plaques; or to demonstrate that we have a broad collection of a particular street, a particular building in the town or even of a particular era.

There are over sixty albums compiled from our collection of photographs. Over twenty albums deal solely with Awards, starting with the earliest in 1977. It's possible to see images of award winners from most years since then. Tony Hill, an early executive member and very keen photographer began to record the nominations for what were then called Conservation Awards. I believe that countless images in the original collection digitised in 2011 were his creation.

The digitisation was made possible by his work with our Vice-President Chris Wiltshire and utilising the superb index created by Ruth Serjeant. This trio is to be commended hugely for their assiduous attention and persistence.

Another whose meticulous photography has benefited the Archive is the late Peter Underwood, a past Chairman of the Society. His collection, taken during the 1960s and 1970s contains some exquisite images using very beautiful colour slides which startle the viewer and are almost works of art in themselves. 

In contrast, another early acquisition of ours was a series of coruscating monochrome images from the late Brian Jepson. An accomplished artist and skilled draughtsman, Brian had a brilliant photographic eye capturing images from the 1950s to the 1990s.

We have a Collection of albums which relate to streets in the town. These celebrate places and people from the late nineteenth century to the present day. We are very fortunate in Ipswich to have a vast range of fascinating buildings both cultural, industrial or just simply beautiful which have been given the album treatment by collecting together all the images which relate to them.





The Orwell Bridge starts to take shape by Brian Mateer

When we were about to have a Winter Illustrated Talk on the Orwell Bridge it was useful to gather together all the images relating to the Orwell Bridge: in its construction, completion and subsequent usage in one album it was useful for our speaker on the night as well as for anybody researching later. 









Then & now: the junction of Back Hamlet and Grove Lane (modern photograph by Tim Leggett)

Unquestionably the most successful album of all in the Image Archive is probably Ipswich: Past & Present. With over ten thousand views it certainly seems to be one that the people of the town wish to see. Tim Leggett, our PR man, spent a great deal of time combing the archive of historical photos; after finding some interesting and old subjects he then proceeded to take a modern image from the same angle and present the two together side-by-side for comparison.

Tim’s work featured on the ‘Cornhill Cubes’ display from March 10 to, unbelievably, May 18 (extended due to the lockdown, of course).

The next most popular with over two thousand views is Mateer– An Ipswich Society Album.  After twelve years in the photographic trade in the RAF, the late Brian Mateer joined Fisons as part of their Farm Photo Plan. He then photographed the town, county and wider area over a period of years, from the air.  A precarious method of photographing was employed in which Brian had to stand on the passenger seat and photograph through the open window, pictures were taken at 500 feet and Brian donated over six hundred crisp and limpid images from the 1970s to the 1990s.


One very gratifying aspect of the Image Archive is the way followers commend the site for its content. We have had well over seven million views; individuals and groups obviously scan the interweb and, in searching some of our images, pick up images which appeal. They then go on to let us know this. There are many local interested groups from as far afield as Western Australia and Singapore; we have over two hundred followers. There are train enthusiasts, journalists, educationalists and even an appreciation group of the A60 Austin Cambridge!


The Image Archive thrives, with the prospect of uploading many images from the Tolly Cobbold brewery and a possible six thousand of the Borough Council’s historic slides kept in the Suffolk Record Office. Remember, you can access the whole lot from the Society’s website (www.ipswichsociety.org.uk), but be careful: viewing can be very absorbing and time-consuming once you are in the Image Archive.

Tony Marsden

Below: Suffolk New College: awarded a High Commendation in 2009 for the new building in Rope Walk. This very effective construction adds vivid colour and articulation of each storey, and includes an impressive atrium. Taken from the Awards 2009 Album from our Image Archive.

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