Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2016, our Derbyshire photo club started in the black-outs of World War Two.

Bakewell Photographic Circle, whose name changed only recently to Bakewell Photo Club (BPC), was founded in September 1941 by John Marchant Brooks (1896-1988), a local estate agent who was clearly familiar with the techniques of photography for his profession.

He formed BPC with a small group of fellow enthusiasts; they met on the first Thursday of every month in his offices in Church Alley. Their practical work could only take place behind black-out blinds – which proved to be ideal for a camera club – and of great help to many in the town, as the new club decided to offer to photograph small family groups free of charge, and for the photos to be sent in time for Christmas via the British Legion to their menfolk serving overseas.

The club moved to more spacious accommodation in 1956, first to the Peacock Hotel in Bakewell, and then to Aldern House, the Peak Park HQ. Eventually in 1972, the Friends Meeting House became the venue, and remains so today.

Not only did John Marchant Brooks found BPC but, in 1954, with one or two other enthusiasts, he founded the Bakewell and District Historical Society; and was instrumental in saving The Old House from demolition. In 1959 this became The Old House Museum, the HQ for the society and a thriving concern. He was chairman of the society from 1954 to 1971, then president to his death in 1988. We are indebted to the Historical Society for his picture – because, quite remarkably, the Photo Club does not have a photo of him!

Another founder member of BPC was Jack Mettam. He attended without fail except for the November 1942 meeting when as ‘Deputy Chief Warden’ he had to sit an ARP exam in Matlock. His family were for many years undertakers in the town. A trophy bearing his name was hand-made by Mettam’s, and was given to the club by his daughter Mary. It is awarded to the most promising newcomer, or for the best service given to the club.

Another pivotal club member was Keith Greaves, who joined in January 1945. He ran a stationer’s shop in the centre of Bakewell. He won many trophies and served as both president and competition judge right up to his death in 1982.

During a photoshoot at a club meeting on May 4, 1945, a phone call was received from a member’s wife to the effect that “it was all over and that she was proceeding to knock the neck off a bottle”, at which they all retired to the Rutland Hotel to hear the BBC news confirming that, at least in Europe, hostilities had indeed ceased.

After the war, the competitive aspect of club photography increased. In October 1946 Jack Mettam won a competition with a portrait of Mary. The judge Mr Urton criticised (as they liked to call it) the print as follows: “It is felt that the eyes are too centrally placed, and a hair ribbon of lighter character would have been better in keeping with the character of the model”. Mary couldn’t have been too offended by these remarks because she became club secretary shortly afterwards! The first competition trophy was provided by John Marchant Brooks in 1953.

Before competitions took a big hold, activities included technical demonstrations of printing techniques by visiting experts, and joint expeditions with Chesterfield Photographic Club to places like Monsal Head and Taddington. Also there seemed to be quite a few dinners. On one occasion, a Mr Towler (another founder member) entertained with a spot of conjuring – clearly a versatile lot, these early photographers!

The club also put on exhibitions, the first to mark the Festival of Britain in May 1951. Thirty-six prints were displayed in Bakewell Library. The public were invited to vote for their favourite, the winner being ‘Portland Bill’, and the runner-up ‘Felonious Intentions’!

In December 1951, Matlock Camera Club started, BPC’s arch (but friendly) rivals in competitions ever since.
A notable milestone was the celebration of the club’s Diamond Jubilee at a dinner in Bakewell in May 2002 (at the time it was erroneously thought the club was founded in 1942!). The then President Philip Wright reminisced with a few anecdotes from the club’s history:

“Colour slides came in 1960, and club funds would not allow for the purchase of a projector, so members had to pay 2/6d each meeting for the hire of the machine.”

“At the meeting in April 1959, the club paid 5/- for the purchase of three half-pound boxes of chocolates for three photographic models. However, at an earlier meeting, 10/6d had been expended on one large box of chocolates for a single model. What services had she rendered to warrant such extravagance?”

At the Jubilee dinner, honorary life membership was awarded to Ron Prince (1922-2014) who had been a member since November 1964. His name is engraved on the club’s various trophies a staggering 41 times.

As part of the Diamond Jubilee celebration, the club put on a large exhibition at Sheffield Botanical Gardens, undoubtedly masterminded by Meg Jullien, who seems to have played a massive part in the running of the club from 1992 through to the early 2000s. As general secretary she arranged speakers, competitions and extensive publicity, as well as competing very successfully herself. She was a skilled landscape photographer, a volunteer for the Botanical Gardens (hence the exhibition), and worked for the Welsh Tourist Board and for Age Concern. She was exhibition secretary for Sheffield Photographic Society. Present members who knew her wondered how she fitted all this in.

In the 1998/9 season, Jim Edmondson won six of the nine trophies. His forte was portraits, and they are instantly recognisable by their attention to detail, skilful lighting and amazing skin tones.

Les Nixon joined in 1996 and has been a constant inspiration to us all with his enthusiasm and leadership. He can give illustrated talks at the drop of a hat on any topic from his vast library of images from all over the world, but his special love is railways.

In the early 2000s, BPC did particularly well in the annual North and East Midlands Photographic Federation competitions, securing top awards four years running, with Jim Edmondson getting the Certificate of Merit in both 2003 and 2004.

It was with great sadness to us all that Jim passed away in 2019, still submitting superb images to the end.

It is also with great sadness to report that Keith Jeffreys passed away in July 2023 at the age of 85. He only relinquished his Club membership at the end of the previous season, having been a member for 50 years. Keith won many competitions in the past, and served as chairman several times. We are greatly indebted to Keith for the contribution he has made to the success and life of the Club.

Philip Wright is now the longest-serving member. He started coming to meetings with his father around 1958 when only 15 years old, became joint secretary with his wife Pauline around 1963, Since then he has done very long service as treasurer and president, only relinquishing these posts in 2019 due to pressure of other commitments.

Three other past members deserve our thanks: Chris Swaap who pioneered the transition from colour slides to digital images in club competitions, Ian Daisley, who as a professional photographer and past chairman provided us with invaluable technical advice, and Jackie Ellis who for many years gave unstinting service as 'fixture' secretary.

Pat Thacker (2020), Chair 2022/3/4

Club founder John Marchant Brooks, 1964

John Marchant Brooks, the club founder, pictured in 1964.

Bakewell Railway Station, 1962, by Les Nixon

Memories of the era of steam – and when the town was still part of the nation’s rail network – are brought to life in this superb photograph of a shunter at work in Bakewell Station Yard in August 1962, taken by Joint Chairman Les Nixon.

75th Anniversary Awards Supper, May 2016

The 75th Anniversary Awards Supper at Bakewell Golf Club in May. From left to right: Philip Wright (Club President); Hilary Tann (Chairman’s Trophy winner); Keith Jeffreys (Joint Chairman); Cllr Helen Froggatt (Mayor of Bakewell, who presented the awards); Les Nixon (Joint Chairman and winner of Wright, Bolehill and Carnelly Trophies); Jude Gadd (winner of Jullien, Seville and Carnelly Trophies); Terry Bamforth (winner of John Marchant Brooks and Kutrite Trophies). Brian Jewsbury was awarded the Jack Mettam Trophy, but was unable to attend.