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Woman at the Great Window (Photographer unknown)

I bought this framed photograph (print 283 x 232 mm) a week or so before Covid-19 locked us down and it has been propped against a wall in my study waiting for me to decide what to do with it.

I was initially drawn to its 1950s-ish B&W compositional style of abstract lines and blocks of light and shade but I found the subject matter somewhat enigmatic ... what's happening here? I describe it as "woman sitting silhouetted in a large prison-like window with ranks of low buildings in the middle distance".

Having now removed it from its frame (scanned and lightly cleaned the minor scratches and blotches of time) the pencilled inscriptions on the back are as follows:-

117 Stephenson Way
Corby
Northants

Pictorial
[Boots Picture Framing Department Ref. No.:-1/4640/650]
(1) Photo Great Window

I would like to be able to identify (1) the photographer, (2) the location and then that might lead me to (3) information about "what's happening here?". Any suggestions?


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Comment by Geoff Lowe on June 24, 2020 at 9:44

I have been in contact with the secretary of the Strathclyde Hotel when it opened in 1964, she says that the photograph is not in the hotel and is unlikely to be in any other building in Corby as she new the town very well. So back to square one!

Comment by Virginia Dodier on June 17, 2020 at 20:09

And ... Corby Borough Council has a lottery-funded project, “Collecting Corby” http://www.culturesyndicates.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Colle...

Comment by Virginia Dodier on June 17, 2020 at 19:25

The venerable Francis Frith has photos, maps and memories of Corby at https://www.francisfrith.com/corby

Comment by Dr. Joe Rock on June 17, 2020 at 17:42

Fascinating building. I suspect health and safety concerns caused a rethink of the high windows running up each end of the building and the elements were strengthened - particularly the horizontal element at waist height. Great bit of research indeed!

Comment by Geoff Lowe on June 17, 2020 at 16:17

Hello again - The Strathclyde Hotel in Corby built around 1960 and is the possible location for your picture. If so your original instincts were right. Robert Rennie would be in his early 60s, with maybe his wife Jessie as model. The hotel would be the tallest building in the town. Hope this helps.

(Google the hotel for a photo)

Comment by Geoff Lowe on June 15, 2020 at 23:11

Well , Rennie is a good Scottish name so the eastern European idea seems to be out of the window. Interesting research!.

Comment by Virginia Dodier on June 15, 2020 at 22:05

I looked up the residents of 117 Stephenson Way, Corby in the 1939 England and Wales Register. They are Robert Rennie (born 1901), furnaceman, and his wife Jessie Rennie, plus children Agnes and Ian.

Comment by Virginia Dodier on June 15, 2020 at 19:50

I suggest contacting the Corby Photographic Club https://www.corbyphotoclub.co.uk. This has the feel of a 1930s photo club competition print to me. From what I see online the Corby Photographic Club was founded in 1936 as the camera club of the Stewart & Lloyds steelworks. Stephenson Way was built in the mid 1930s to house the workers—it’s all 2-bedroom semis. So I don’t think the photo was taken on Stephenson Way, but that is the photographer’s home address. “The Great Window” might have been a significant feature of the works HQ. Yes, it’s Bauhaus-y in feel but the use of the woman-at-the-window motif ( popular since the Romantic period) plus the warm tone indicate that the photographer intended a humanizing view of the industry that had taken over Corby. (If this is indeed Corby ...)

Comment by Geoff Lowe on June 15, 2020 at 17:53

117 Stephenson Way looks like a 1930s council estate.

Comment by Graham Barnes on June 15, 2020 at 17:40

Many thanks for taking time to comment. I think that I'll aim to find a photographer who knows Corby well in the hope that they might understand the reference to "117 Stephenson Way" and that they might also be able to confirm or reject the image location as being of Corby. Other friends have also commented that my "1950s-ish" guess-timate is probably too recent for the subject matter. In the meantime I'll poke my nose around in the Corby films at BFI. Thanks for those tips.

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