Picture Then And Now

Putney Then & Now: An Exhibition

Event info

A new exhibition in connection with St Mary’s Church, Putney, designed to co-incide with the Wandsworth Heritage  Festival (29th May to 13th June 2021).


In the last decades of the Nineteenth Century, Putney underwent great change as a result of urban development. In the 1880s much of Old Putney was pulled down including the old wooden Toll Bridge, the old waterfront, and the remaining great houses of Putney High Street together with other houses and shops.

Fortunately, much of what has gone was captured by photographers, including William Field whose work is considered to be a primary record of Putney’s appearance before its transformation.

William opened his photographic studio and shop in 1878 at 9 Putney High Street, a site now occupied by the Odeon cinema. This same year, photography underwent a revolution with the mass production of dry plates. Invented in 1871, dry plates meant that the photographer no longer had to carry around a portable dark room complete with chemicals in order to develop the plates while they were still wet. Moreover, the dry plates were about sixty times more light-sensitive than wet plates, greatly reducing exposure times. William was quick to take advantage of this innovation, leaving his studio to photograph Putney’s urban landscape and the daily lives of its people.

The work of William Field and his contemporaries (which is relevant to Putney), is represented in a set of eleven prints currently held in the archives of St. Mary’s Church. Inspired by these prints, six current local members of the RPS decided to follow in the footsteps of William Field and his fellow photographers. Courtesy of St Mary’s Putney, they re-photographed these old prints for this exhibition, and you can see them here today. New images were taken over the first four months of 2021, mainly during a time of national lockdown which constrained what was possible.

Just as William Field took advantage of technical developments in photography when he recorded Putney as it was in the 1870s, our group has made use of digital photography to record Putney as they see it now. The exhibition illustrates not only the changes in Putney itself but highlights that photography itself is constantly changing, both as science and as art.

In 1878, William became a member of the Photographic Society – now the RPS.

The Photographers whose work you can enjoy today are:

John Kelly LRPS, CPAGB, Sue Oakford LRPS, Helen Shaw, Pat Simmons, Sarah Smith LRPS, Roger Towell ARPS.

Putney ‘Then and Now’: Acknowledgements

Thanks are due to the photographers for all their hard work in pulling together this Exhibition and to Berni Griffiths of St Mary’s Church, Putney, for his help and support, for access to the archive and for allowing us to photograph these pictures. Thank you also to the staff of the Putney Library for their help and encouragement as always. Any questions about the photographs or the photographers, should be addressed in the first place to David Hicks, RPS London Regional Organiser, by email: london@rps.org .


Event Organiser

Judy Hicks LRPS


Venue Information

Putney Library has free internet access, wifi, adult and children’s sections, study areas, CD's and DVD's. There is also a hall for hire.   Fully accessible.


Putney Library

5-7 Disraeli Road



SW15 2DR