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The Lightbox to exhibit glimpses of Woking’s past with photographs by Sidney Francis / 14 July-7 October 2018

Travel back in time to Woking’s past at a new exhibition Photographs around Woking: Sidney Francis in the 1920s and 1930s which shows glimpses of what Woking was like nearly 100 years ago.

Taken by former Woking resident Sidney Francis (1891-1973), the photographs offer an insight into life in Woking and nearby towns and villages in the 1920s and 1930s. The fascinating and uplifting collection of photos includes wedding parties, sports teams, Eid celebrations, parades, dancers and musicians, and is testament to the vibrant and diverse community spirit that has always been a part of Woking.

Visitors to the exhibition will discover local residents dressing up and celebrating Woking Carnival in 1927; family-owned businesses such as dairies, butchers, printers and confectioners proudly displaying their wares; crowds gathering for Remembrance Day memorials; religious holidays at the Shah Jahan Mosque (Britain’s first purpose-built mosque) and families coming together for modest yet joyful weddings.

Sidney Francis was born Sidney Francis Patient in Southwark. By the time of the 1911 census, he was working as a photographer’s assistant in Crawley, Sussex. By 1916 he was working as a photographer in Godalming. During the First World War, he served in the Royal Air Force, possibly in a photographic unit.

From 1923 Francis lived at 88 Maybury Road in Woking, where he also ran his photography business. Often describing himself as a “photographic chemist”, Francis’ work included wedding photography, commissions for local businesses, event photography for local newspapers the 'Woking News & Mail' and 'Surrey Advertiser', and commissions for ‘The Islamic Review’.  

The glass plate negatives of Francis’ work are now housed in the archives of Surrey History Centre, who have worked closely with The Lightbox heritage volunteers to curate this exhibition. Jill Hyams, Archivist at the Surrey History Centre, will be in conversation with Peter Hall, Exhibitions Manager at The Lightbox, on Thurs 20 September 2018, 7.00pm, discussing Francis’ life and the places, people and festivities which he captured.

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