School photographs, mid 20th Century UK
In the 1950s, the only school photos for large schools that I saw were not of individuals, although these may have existed. They was just one photo for the entire schools: heads, teachers and pupils all together. You may wonder how this could be while maintaining enough quality for individuals to be recognised. This page explains how it was done at my school in 1950s. It includes example photos from the school, Copthall County Grammar School, in 1946, 1949, 1952, 1955, 1957, 1961 with thumbnail images that can be opended so that individuals can be recognised.
By the webmaster: her personal recollections and collections with additional photographs from others
Seating arrangement and timing for the school photos
At my girls grammar school in 1950s there was a school photograph every second or third summer.
Broadly speaking, the youngest class, known as the first form, sat on the ground at the front and the older girls stood on benches at the back. However, we were arranged in height order, which meant that I, being small for my age, was separated from most of my class. The teachers and some of the sixth form sat on chairs in the middle. At that time when relatively few people went on to university, the sixth form were given special privileges. The headmistress, Miss Heys-Jones sat in the centre.
Size and shape of the school photo
I always marvelled at the camera that was used for the school photographs. Although everyone was placed round a large semicircle, the resulting photograph seemed to show us all in straight, parallel lines. The photographer managed the camera from the centre. He pointed it at one end of the semi-circle and then let a mechanism take over the movement. We could watch the camera sweep smoothly round to finish at the other end of the semi-circle. How the images didn't judder and blur, I still find amazing. The distortion that made it seem as if we in straight lines was obviously very clever and the only way anyone would notice was from the apparent curvature of the buildings which were of course really straight.
The resulting photographs were extremely long and narrow.
Storage and costs of school photos
Because these photos were so wide, the only way to store them was in rolls, and they arrived from the photographer inside thick green carboard sleeves. I wish I could remember how much he charged, but it couldn't have been a lot or my mother would have said that we couldn't afford it. Presumably with over 600 girls at the school, there would have been good sales.
Copthall school photographs, mid 20th century
There are also large scale images of the school photos from 1946, 1949 and 1961, i.e before and after I started at the school; the 1949 one was a present from many years ago; and the 1961 one is courtesy of Hazel Dimond (formerly Hazel Timms).
I believe that the collection probably shows all the school photos from Copthall until and including 1961, as there would have been none during World War Two; and before the war the school was still getting established. If you were at Copthall during this period, you should be able to recognise yourself and your classmates. Otherwise and more likely, your mother, aunt or grandmother. For how the girls and their families lived in the 1940s and 50s, see the top menu.
The following thumbnail photos are in sections. Tap/click for full scale enlargements from which you should be able to recognise individuals. There are also better photos of most of the teachers, along with their names, and there are photographs and details of the headmistress, Miss Heys-Jones along with the two later headmistresses.
This 1946 photo was before my time at Copthall and is courtesy of Maureen Blower and Joyce Harris (formerly Maureen Edginton and Joyce Good respectively). In view of the Second World War, it was almost certainly the first ever Copthall school photo and the enlargements show that the uniform rule was not yet fully in place, as not all the girls are wearing identical dresses. Most are check, but the checks are not all the same size, and, although the photos are black and white, it is clear that they are not all the same colour.
This 1949 photo was also before my time at Copthall. It was a given to me many years ago before this website was even a twinkling in my eye, and sadly I can't remember who gave it to me. I could only count one girl not wearing the school blazer and I am reasonably sure that this would have been because she was new and her uniform had not yet arrived. This was not unknown in my time.
This 1952 photo was bought by me at the time, and I am in it. However, as I am turning away as the camera reached me, I won't try to explain where.
This 1955 photo was also in my time and the photo is in my possession. I am in it, but wouldn't want to show you where for obvious reasons.
This 1957 photo was in my last year and the photo is in my possession. You can see me most easily by finding the girl sitting on the ground fourth from the left and working up to the third row. I am looking slightly sideways on.
I had left Copthall by 1961. This photo is courtesy of Hazel Dimond (formerly Hazel Timms).