Archive sepia image showing a river with two bridges and a city beyond.

About this image

Swing Bridge and High Level Bridge, Newcastle, 1880-1900. Early Photographic Print Collection. OP11431 © Historic England Archive

The Early Photographic Print Collection (EPPC)

Comprising over 22,000 items, the vast majority photographic prints, this collection includes images of every English county. After nearly seven years of conservation, research and cataloguing many still remain to be scanned, but all of this wonderfully diverse collection is now available to search via the Historic England Archive website. 

The collection offers a fascinating record of the architecture, people, industry and landscapes of England from the earliest days of photography in the 1850s through to the latter part of the 20th century. With such a huge collection picking out favourites is never easy. The images below have been selected by our team at the Historic England Archive.

Littleover, Derbyshire, 1880-1900

The blocked Norman doorway of Littleover Church forms a frame for two girls collecting firewood. The older of the girls carries an over-flowing basket of kindling on her head. Presumably Richard Keene, the photographer, was distracted from photographing the church in order to capture this scene.

Archive sepia photo of two girsl carrying sticks standing in front of a blocked ashlar archway
OP06044 St Peter’s Church, Littleover, Derbyshire, 1880-1900. Early Photographic Print Collection. © Historic England Archive

Jubilee Celebration 1897

Some of the photographs held by the Historic England Archive have little or no accompanying information. This is an example where some detective work was called for. Close examination of information just legible on the posters in the background revealed the location. The banner indicates that the villagers are celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee and this, combined with the ladies fashions, suggest a date of 1897.

Take a look at our ‘Be An Archive Detective’ page and see if you're able to help identify any of the images we haven’t managed to track down.

archive sepia photo of people in Victorian costume gathered beneath a banner across a street
OP05598 – Villagers beneath a banner celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, Nether Stowey, Somerset, 1897. Early Photographic Print Collection. © Historic England Archive

Whitby Abbey 1880-1900

This view of the picturesque ruins of Whitby Abbey is so familiar and evocative; it’s also a reminder that throughout the generations we are inspired to capture the same scenes, whether in paint, on film or digitally.

The elderly man is intriguing: What's contained in the case he's kneeling beside? Is he a photographer, an artist or perhaps a tourist? And why has the photographer chosen to place him in the centre of the shot?

Archive sepia photo of a man crouching in the foreground with a ruined abbey beyond.
OP07800 Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire, late Victorian. Early Photographic Print Collection. © Historic England Archive

Welsh Back, Bristol 1880-1900

Apart from being a beautifully composed image, this photograph also captures Bristol at a time when it was still a thriving port city. There are numerous sail boats moored in the harbour and Welsh Back is lined with warehouses.

Little of this architecture survives, one exception being the grand warehouse. Its crenelated parapet partially hidden by masts, this building is considered to be one of the finest examples of the 19th century warehouse design known as ‘Bristol Byzantine’, a style supposedly influenced by the mercantile architecture of the east Mediterranean. No longer used for storing grain, it's now offices.

archive sepia image of docks, warehouses and moored sailing ships.
OP08777 - Floating Harbour at Welsh Back, Bristol, late Victorian. Early Photographic Print Collection. © Historic England Archive

Lewes, East Sussex, Feb 1881

The winter of 1881 is famous for the blizzards that occurred between 18 - 20 January. Nearly 50 years earlier, on 27 December 1836, a build-up of snow on a cliff above the town caused an avalanche that destroyed a row of cottages, killing eight people.

archive sepia photo of people and vehicle tracks on a street covered by deep snow
OP09739 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex, Feb 1881. Early Photographic Print Collection. © Historic England Archive

Trafalgar Square, early 1930s

This is an unusual view of a very familiar Trafalgar Square. Nelson’s Column and St Martin in the Fields Church are visible, but the focus is the pipe trench and workmen. The scene is also surprisingly quiet – other than the workmen there are just three hatted gents and a deserted car to be seen!

Archive sepia photo showing two workmen looking into an excavated trench filled with pipework.
OP17884 Trafalgar Square, London, early 1930s. Early Photographic Print Collection. © Historic England Archive

Tyne Bridges 1880-1900

This view was chosen because it embodies the challenges faced by the Victorian civil engineers in building such structures within a pre-existing urban environment whilst dealing with the natural geography of the site.

archive sepia photo of a river and two bridges with a city beyond.
OP11431 – Swing Bridge and High Level Bridge, Newcastle, 1880-1900. Early Photographic Print Collection. © Historic England Archive
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