Book Review Researching Rutland	Registered Charity No 700273 Rutland Local History & Record Society
Francis Frith’s Oakham  By Bryan Waites Photographic Memories - Frith Book Company Ltd., 2003, price £9.99 In this companion to his Uppingham volume, Bryan Waites brings his extensive knowledge of Rutland’s local history to bear on the Oakham part of the Francis Frith photographic archive. Writing in his usual clear and articulate style, he finds opportunities in the brief introductory sections and captions to summarise salient points in Oakham’s history. He regrets those characterful scenes and ways of life that have disappeared since the photographs were taken and also warns us to be on our guard against further loss. The Frith collection, at least in its Oakham and Uppingham content, has been well-known to users of the Rutland County Museum’s photographic archive for over 30 years, for the museum possesses a number of Frith glass plate negatives of the 1930s which were dispersed from the company in the late 1960s. Less well known are those Rutland scenes of the 1950s which often compare interestingly with the earlier views. The Frith collection, at least in its Oakham and Uppingham content, has been well-known to users of the Rutland County Museum’s photographic archive for over 30 years, for the museum possesses a number of Frith glass plate negatives of the 1930s which were dispersed from the company in the late 1960s. Less well known are those Rutland scenes of the 1950s which often compare interestingly with the earlier views. Fascinating and valuable though these views are, the author is constrained by the fact that they are all drawn from these two short periods in this one archive. He recognises too that Frith’s photographs are not, in general, romantic: the streets are largely empty; there are few of those carefully placed groups of local inhabitants found in scenes by, say, Henton or Dolby. There are certainly none of the day-to-day events and activities recorded by other photographers during the twentieth century. Oakham being a small town, the range of views is necessarily limited. Frith didn’t venture into the back streets, and so we find what some may regard as too much duplication of scenes of the Market Place or Oakham School chapel. Indeed, about a third of the book illustrates other places, including Uppingham and two non-Rutland villages. The author has not always been well served by the publisher. One or two of the photographs appear to have been cropped after the captions were written, and there is an unfortunate duplication of 15 lines of text on pp62-3. The binding is so tight that where a view spans facing pages, part is usually trapped in the spine and cannot be seen. On page 80, the same view of Uppingham High Street appears twice. These reservations apart, local historians will find this a useful book. For example, the views of Oakham Castle and Cutts Close show the area before the growth of excessive vegetation, essential references for those now working on proposals to restore the castle’s overgrown ramparts. It should certainly be on the shelves of those who value Rutland and its past. Tim Clough for Rutland History Society Newsletter