Francis Frith’s Uppingham: Photographic MemoriesBy Bryan WaitesFrith Book Company Ltd. 2003, price £9.99 As we have come to expect of Bryan Waites, a former Editor of the Society's ‘Record’, this is a delightful book, full of pictures of superior quality supported by interesting information and descriptions. In the guise of an old friend, Bryan takes the reader on a walk around the town pointing out and explaining the buildings and scenes for us to see and understand them as they were, in many cases not that long ago.The Frith Collection is one of the great records of this county as it was in the first half of the twentieth century. How fitting therefore that Bryan should be invited to present a selection so that we can share his knowledge and scholarship. He has selected a broad and representative range of scenes both in time and location, arranged easily and logically - the approach, Market Place, High Street, the School - to illustrate the town's different features.
Of particular delight is the detail of the two nannies (page 16) walking at Red Hill. Surely those reading this book will wish to visit to see for themselves? Of immense help to the local historian are the excellent explanations accompanying the illustrations and the fact that each is dated. These will form an authoritative reference point for anyone in the future needing to place a scene in its correct context.There are of course gaps, for which neither Bryan nor the Frith organisation is to blame; after all they can work only with what material is available. What did Baines’ corner look like before road widening, or Queen Street before the present Library, even High Street West before the Memorial Hall? Missing are the passages and back yards with their crowded tenements that nobody would think of photographing, now made such a pleasing feature of the town. And where are the inhabitants? These missing scenes emphasise the urgency for people to bring old photographs to the Society for copying before this record is lost for ever.If one is to be critical, then perhaps it is to ask whether it was necessary to include material from surrounding villages, even of Oakham, the subject of a separate publication? Inclusion of an appendix listing all of Frith's material on Uppingham would have been welcome.These are but minor issues. Overall, this is a valuable contribution to understanding the local history of Rutland's second town, and at the same time will appeal to the much wider audience of those who remember Uppingham as it was or who just take pleasure in scenes from an older England.