From HOD to HLF

In 2013 colleagues at a little business in Derby were 'umming' and 'ahing' about what to do with 146 years of 'stuff'.

© W. W. Winter Ltd - Uncatalogued glass plate negatives spanning around 100 years of history.

Built in 1867 as the new studio for artist and photographer Walter William Winter, 45 Midland Road, Derby is astonishingly still used for the very same purpose. Whist the commercial business continues apace, the build-up of historical detritus started to demand attention. It was, in fact, a customer that began a new chapter in the Winter's story book, with the question: Have you heard of Heritage Open Days?

A little bit of web surfing later, we took the plunge and submitted the application. It was a complete unknown. The current owner, Hubert King, had given talks about the history of the company in the past but would anyone be interested in having a look around?

Several press releases, events listings, Facebook posts and tweets later we started to get a trickle of interest until 'lo-and-behold' we got a slot on ITV Central News. It was a huge catalyst and was followed up with radio and local press until every tour slot on the day had been taken!

During the build up we had been able to look into the possibility of HLF funding. Funding has proved tricky for Winter's. Whilst it is an historical grade 2 listed building with a wealth of heritage, it is also a working commercial photo studio which usually excludes it from support. However, with the help of artist Debbie Adele Cooper and archivist Jane Middleton-Smith we were able to put forward the case that a huge social history is contained within the uncatalogued glass plate negatives existing, quite literally, in piles in the cellar. Along with the bid we were able to submit letters of support from members of the public and local history groups, who had attended our first Heritage Open Day. A bid was put in to the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2014 and just on the cusp of Heritage Open Days September 2014, we were able to announce it as a success!

The aim of the project is not only to conserve the negatives but to bring to light lost images of Derby and its people. Already in the Winter's collection are the images shown here of a young Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh opening the council house in Derby in 1947 and a beautiful sunlit shot of Derby Free Library and Museum. Of the many studio shots, the negative of this portrait (bottom right) is labelled 'Jones'. What became of her? Is she still in Derby, and what did she graduate in? These personal and town histories are interwoven and we look forward to discoveriing and sharing them.

You can read about and keep up-to-date with the W. W. Winter's project online:

Ultimately the message of this blog is that, if you know of a site of heritage interest, get it involved with Heritage Open Days; you never know what will come of it!