The North Middlesex Photographic Society‘s Survey and Record of Middlesex

This society, the name of which is most conveniently shortened to NMPS, was based in Hornsey throughout its life. However its membership was widely located and chose its name to reflect this.

The forefront of photography

Starting in 1888 the NMPS quickly rose to the forefront of photography, eager to capture the historic buildings and monuments, customs and traditions of northern Middlesex which were fast disappearing during a period of rapid social and economic change at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. In practice it also included some photographs of London and some of people.

Prints by any process were accepted but a preference was given to those using the platinum process (for permanent pictures) and three un-mounted copies of each were fixed to mounts provided by the NMPS. By 1907 the collection of prints, kept in the chairman’s house, needed proper accommodation and it was placed on loan in Hornsey Library for safe keeping.

A growing collection

The number of prints grew steadily over the years from 200 prints in 1908 until by 1938 it was reported that some 1000 photographs had been collected, these showed Middlesex scenes at different times between 1862 and 1920 and included a practically complete survey of the old buildings of Highgate and Hampstead.

The collection is made up by contributions from 44 NMPS members and covered 54 different locations in Middlesex and London. A notable member and officer of the society was H W Fincham who contributed 243 photographs to the collection.

The 54 locations in north Middlesex represented in the collection including Barnet, Clerkenwell, Harefield, Monken Hadley, Stanmore and West Drayton. Based in Hornsey, a large percentage of photographs were taken in Hornsey and the surrounding areas.

An important legacy

NMPS wound itself up in the late 1990s. One of its last decisions, in 2001, was to transfer ownership of the photograph collection to Hornsey Historical Society. Unfortunately a number of the photographs had disappeared by this time. However, it remains a significant collection of early photographs which is stored in the archive room at the Old Schoolhouse. One each of the prints is contained in 32 boxes and amounts to some 800 photographs.

The earliest photographs dating from 1863 were copied from other collections, such as that of George Potter of Highgate, now in the British Museum. The bulk of the collection is made up of prints provided by NMPS members between 1903 and 1913 with some additions made during and after the First World War.

HHS had the collection digitalized eight years ago and it is these which can be viewed at the Old Schoolhouse as the prints are too fragile to be brought into the light. Please enquire if you are interested in purchasing a copy of a print.

One hundred and twenty prints can be seen in the HHS 40th anniversary book, A Vision of Middlesex by Janet Owen and John Hinshelwood. Most of the images on this website are included in this book.