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January 2014 – Save Photo Limited have discovered what may be the earliest surviving original images of Winston Churchill. They were discovered in the Hills and Saunders Harrow Collection, which they were contracted to digitise, conserve and catalogue for the private owner. The collection was found in poor condition in the dairy barn of a farm outside Cirencester in 2012. The private owner and Save Photo rescued the collection and relocated it to a secure and climate controlled storage at Save Photo’s headquarters in Warwickshire. Save Photo are carefully cleaning, cataloguing, storing and digitising the images for future digital consumers to enjoy.
For over 90 years, between 1860 and 1970, Hills and Saunders, photographers by Royal Appointment, captured memorable images of Harrow schoolboys, their families and the beautiful surrounds of this prestigious institution. This collection, of over 90,000 glass plate negatives, is possibly the largest surviving archive of its kind in the world. The Collection includes every member of staff, pupil and sporting team from Harrow School between 1860 and 1965. Glass plates rarely survive due to their fragile nature and other top public schools are known to have sold off or disposed of their plates.
Lizzie Davies, Save Photo’s archivist, discovered the seven images of Winston Churchill whilst she was matching individual pupils to the photographic plates using the original photographers’ ledgers and documentation.
Seven plates have been discovered that show Winston Churchill aged between 13 and 17, during his four years at Harrow School as part of The Head Master’s House between 1889 and 1892, under House Master Reverend Welldon. Six are from The Head Master’s House ‘Welldon’ group photographs and one photograph features him in the Harrow School Rifle Corp. In The Head Master’s House group photographs Winston Churchill is depicted through his years alternating between unhappiness and contentedness, reflecting the statesman’s varied attitude towards his school years - though he didn’t excel at school, he revisited Harrow many times. One can see his schoolboy maturation during his years at Harrow, moving from the front to the back row. He can also be seen dressed in military garb with the rifle Corp, having joined very early on. One can see a keen alertness in his expression pointing towards his illustrious military career ahead.
Peter Boswell, Managing Director of Save Photo comments ‘Save Photo Limited has been very privileged to work with such a unique collection of historical significance. Our team have been working on an intensive programme of conservation and archiving. We have been lovingly inspecting each photographic plate to ensure it is carefully cleaned, recorded and stored in high quality archival sleeves. With the First World War centenary events beginning this year, I am delighted that we have been able to add these amazing lost images to the portfolio of known Churchill images’.
The Winston Churchill plates that form part of the Hills and Saunders Harrow Collection will be offered for sale at auction later this year, details to be announced by the Private Owner in due course.
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