Sunday, 3 July 2011

A Black and White Memories Show

Screening cranberries at Isaac Cahoon’s bog in Brewster, Cape Cod, in 1892.
Photographer Cornelius Chenery

I've been meaning for some time to mention in these pages an inspiring project launched back in April by our friends in Brewster, MA.

'Brewster in Black and White' is an online digital archive of 45 remarkable photos which give an insight into life in our sister-town at the turn of the 20th century. I am grateful to the Brewster Historical Society for permission to reproduce these three images.

This photo, taken around 1900, shows how works for extracting salt from seawater lined Brewster’s shore in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Here in East Devon also, our town's original name of Salterne testified to the importance of the local salt industry. Salt was once manufactured in large salt pans at the mouth of the River Otter. The salt works were owned in medieval times by the monks of the priory at the nearby village of Otterton, the salt was transported by packhorses to the towns and villages situated along the river.

Another aspect of the Brewster coastline, seen c. 1900. The photographer is unknown. Traditionally, sea bathers arrived at the beach fully clothed and changed into swimwear in bathhouses like these. For me it's another reminder of the similarity of our two coastal towns, with Budleigh's beach huts now seen as an attractive feature of the town.

The archive forms part of a much bigger collection of over 400 photographic glass plate negatives bequeathed to The Brewster Historical Society in 1970. Only now with modern technology has it been possible to make digital images and these are now viewable via the Society's website at

There is an excellent introduction on the site giving more details about the collection.

Here in Budleigh Salterton we have Otter Valley Association's excellent Ovapedia at which is all text. Then there is Fairlynch Museum's collection of images, currently being digitised, about which I hope to write one day.

Wouldn't it make sense to combine such projects?

For the time being you'll have to make do with my blog.

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