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Copthall People Photographs, mid 20th century

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Copthall County Grammar School: school photographs, mid 1900s

At my girls grammar school in 1950s, north London, there was a school photograph every second or third summer. These photographs were not of individuals. They were of the whole school: the headmistress, the teachers and all the girls who came together on the front lawn.

Rolls of school photographs from the 1950s.

Rolls of school photographs from the 1950s

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.

Strict observance of school uniform was obligatory for a school photo, but it wasn't an issue because observance was always strict - not only in school but on the journeys to and from home.

A typical school photograph from the 1950s showing the entire school: pupils, teachers and the headmistress. Such photographs were about a metre long.

A typical school photograph from the 1950s showing the entire school: pupils, teachers and the headmistress. Such photographs were about a metre long.

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. 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 very wide, and the only way to store them was in rolls.

Copthall school photographs for mid 20th century years

There are school photos on this site for years:
1946, 1949, 1952, 1955, 1957, 1961

I still have my school photographs from 1952, 1955 and 1957 and have scanned them at the largest sizes that the web will reasonably take.

There are also large scale images of the school photos from 1946, 1949 and 1961, ie before and after I started at the school. The 1946 one is courtesy of Maureen Blower and Joyce Harris (formerly Maureen Edginton and Joyce Good respectively); 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 1961 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.

If you were at Copthall around this time, you will probably like the pages on life in the 1940s and 50s - see the top menu. More information and photos are always welcome.


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