Unknown photographer unmasked at Yapton and Ford Local History Group exhibition telling story of his discovery

An ‘unknown photographer’ was unmasked and the incredible story of his discovery was told by Yapton and Ford Local History Group as part of a two-pronged photographic exhibition.

The Yapton Village Show had to be rearranged due to the severe weather warning for Saturday but the history group went ahead as planned with its exhibition in the Village Hall.

Sisters Amanda and Tracey Congdon were special guests invited by Yapton and Ford Local History Group to the exhibition about their great grandfather

Sisters Amanda and Tracey Congdon were special guests invited by Yapton and Ford Local History Group to the exhibition about their great grandfather

More pictures: Yapton and Ford photographic exhibition goes ahead, despite annual show cancellation

Organisers were rewarded with a turnout of approximately 300 people during the course of the afternoon.

The main display told the story of an ‘unknown photographer’ and the incredible sequence of coincidences that led to the discovery of who he was.

It all started 12 years ago, when John Thomson saved a collection of seven boxes, containing more than 300 glass negatives, from a skip while working in a bookshop in Bath.

Studying pictures from Sidney Fletcher's collection

Studying pictures from Sidney Fletcher's collection

It was not until last year that John started developing them and publishing the photographs on Twitter.

One of the boxes had ‘Yapton’ written on one end, so John contacted the history group and members were able to recognise and date some of the views.

Allen Misselbrook, chairman, said: “Following some detective work, it was discovered the mystery photographer was a retired stockbroker by the name of Sidney Fletcher, who lived with his family in Berea Court, Yapton, from 1907 until 1917.

“With the help of online researchers, many of the other views in the photographs were located in England, the Continent, Africa and India.”

John Thomson with history group chairman Allen Misselbrook

John Thomson with history group chairman Allen Misselbrook

An article about Sidney was placed in the Yapton News magazine and, by chance, it was spotted by two of his relatives.

Allen explained: “In July of this year, two sisters travelling from the West Country visited Yapton Church while passing through the village. They picked up a copy of the Yapton News magazine and saw a photograph of their great grandfather, Sidney Fletcher, which was part of an article about the mystery photographer, staring back at them.

“They were overwhelmed with emotion and made contact with the author of the article.”

The history group was delighted to welcome the two sisters, Amanda and Tracey Congdon, along with John Thomson, as special guests at the exhibition.

John took along a box of the glass negatives, while Amanda and Tracey added a selection of their own family photographs to the collection on show.

The display contained more than 120 of Sidney’s photographs, including 30 of Yapton and Bognor Regis, along with several newspaper cuttings tracing his and his family’s history.

Visitors took a great interest in the story and several had travelled from as far as Reading, Portsmouth and Brighton to see the display.

In a separate exhibition running alongside, the history group displayed a whole range of historical documents from its archives, relating to the villages of Yapton and Ford.

Among those items receiving special interest was a series of ancient maps, a collection of references from newspapers from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and crime reports from the same period.

Also on show were early census returns, the school register from the late 19th century and the first schoolmaster’s logbook for the period up to 1886 and a range of old photographs with their modern equivalents.

For more information about the Yapton & Ford Local History Group, visit www.yaptonhistory.org.uk

The Yapton annual flower show has been moved to Saturday, August 31. Show secretary David Donovan said: “The village hall and recreation ground were fortuitously available, so its on with the show.”