Barkers

Photo:George Meadows with the old Britania Pier Pavilion in the background.

George Meadows with the old Britania Pier Pavilion in the background.

Photo:Gail Meadows toddles along near No 53.

Gail Meadows toddles along near No 53.

Photo:Great Yarmouth logo used by Barkers for many years. Long after the Great Yarmouth Publicity Department had dropped using it.

Great Yarmouth logo used by Barkers for many years. Long after the Great Yarmouth Publicity Department had dropped using it.

Photo:George arrives at 53 Regent Road on his bicycle with his Leica camera around his neck.

George arrives at 53 Regent Road on his bicycle with his Leica camera around his neck.

Photo:A walkie taken in the afternoon or early evening showing George's wife Joyce on the left.

A walkie taken in the afternoon or early evening showing George's wife Joyce on the left.

Walking Pictures
By Paul Godfrey

George Meadows is seen in the top photograph near to the old Brittania Pier Pavilion sometime between 1945 and 1953 with a camera that was taking walking photographs that were known as "walkies." "Walkies" ,no not a command for your dog to walk but a term used to describe photographs taken with these converted 35mm cine cameras. Barkers had several of these devices that were ex-government and were used as cine cameras in the First World War. The cameras were converted for use as still cameras and were operated by the photographer turning the handle once to take series of three photographs that were printed in a strip of 3 prints as shown.

Barkers owned a house number 53 Regent Road Great Yarmouth. The camera was positioned behind the garden wall of no 53 and the holiday makers were snapped as they walked past. They were given a numbered ticket that identified the photograph that they were invited back to 53 Regent Road to view and buy later that day. The photographs were displayed in the front room of the house and vast quantities were sold. 53 Regent Road was eventually turned into a shop.

I assume these cameras held around about 100 feet of film. Ronnie Bean, who worked for Barkers many years, told me these were processed using wooden boards with nails driven in a concentric pattern. In the darkroom the film was wound around the nails and then the boards were dipped into the chemicals. How they dried 100 feet of film in one length one can only guess.

Archie who also worked for many years at Barkers told me he numbered the negatives using a watchmakers eyeglass and a rapidograph pen. The remarkable thing is that you can only write on the emulsion side of the film and he must have written the numbers back to front on each set of three negatives. The shutter on the camera must have been modified to create a black area on the edge of one frame for the number to be written on.

John Barker and Sons was a family business located in Great Yarmouth. John Barker had two sons, Edgar and Leslie who were involved in the photographic business. They continued to run the business after John Barker retired. Edgar went to visit George after  WW2 and offered him a job and realising that George had now married he also offered his wife employment.

Edgar organised the photography and processing side at the factory and Leslie was responsible for the shops. Initially there was one shop at 53 Regent Road. They later acquired 16 Regent Road and a number of other locations. Some of the staff George worked with before the war also returned to work there.

There were Archie and Alex and two brothers- Ronnie and Bert Bean. They all worked for the company for very many years. Ronnie operated the processing equipment and did all the running repairs. He was extremely talented and even designed and made several items of equipment. Bert drove the van and made all the deliveries.

George would have operated outside the premises at 53 Regent Road. There was a small shop in what would have been the front room of the house. At the end of the day the camera was stored in the hallway. A relative of the Barkers lived above the shop and would sometimes offer to make tea or coffee for the staff. George took the photographs , a boy was employed to give out the tickets and for a short time George's wife, Joyce, worked in the shop. At busy times the elder Mrs Barker would sit by the door and take the money. As more people started coming to Great Yarmouth for holidays, after the war, the business grew. George spent many long hours along Yarmouth seafront taking pictures, "walkies."

On odd occasions unauthorised people would take photographs and attempt to charge people in advance, they were known as 'Spivs' and were not popular for operating on Barkers territory!

By this time the camera used would have been Leica camera. At a later date Barkers opened a small 'hut' called Wellington Snaps positioned by the side of the Winter Gardens to sell the pictures. Barkers supplied their seafront photographers with bright red jackets and George soon became a very well known and familiar sight along the promenade.

This page was added by Paul Godfrey on 09/06/2008.

Comments about this page

I'm researching the history of walking pictures, which were taken in most big coastal towns and some urban ones as well. Are copies of the images here available? Is it possible to ask Paul Godfrey whether there is any more information about this company or archives on file? Thanks. Simon Robinson

By Simon Robinson
On 04/05/2010

For several years as a student in the 60s I used to work for the Barkers as a red coated photographer . I still have my Licensed by Gt Yarmouth badge.

The unlicensed snappers were called Smudge Grafters. I remember Harry the Horse was one. He spent many an afternoon lying low from the law in the Empire Cinema.

I pictured all the Mods and Rockers as they came along the prom, gave them all tickets and then let them get on with fighting . We used wartime Leicas with large spools of 35mm film. Ol' Barker would patrol around in his RR trying to spot us having a sly cheese roll and a cup of tea.

My head and hands were a lovely brown from the sun, but my body was white. There were about 5 of us. Two down by the Wellington pier and 2/3 by the Marina (my patch).

I still have a lot of pix of me and my girlfriend (now my wife).In the evening i would go to the North Deans Holiday Camp and take colour pix on a half frame 35mm camera. These trans would be cut up and put into little viewers . We would try and take money for these and deliver the item next evening.

When we got our hut on the beach we could change film much easier. When it rained we would sit in the hut and make fantastic paper planes and throw them out of the hut to see which went the farthest to much applause from all the holiday makers sheltering under the Marina.

By Geoff Sumpter
On 14/06/2010

Thanks for all these memories Geof. I am building up collection of these memories about Barkers with the hope making a web site about Barkers and the “walkies.” I like the idea of Edgar patrolling Marine Parade in his Rolls Royce to see if you were all hard at work.

By Paul Godfrey
On 05/07/2010

Hi Geoff, I am interested in finding out if the 'wartime Leicas' with large spools of film you used were in fact the Leica 250 models which have the enlarged film chambers taking 10metres of film for 250 exposures. These cameras are now very collectable as less than 1000 were made. And can you please advise which make/model of half frame cameras were used at North Denes for the transparencies? Any other information regarding types and makes of cameras used for 'walking pictures' would also be appreciated. Thanks Duncan Kirkwood

By Duncan Kirkwood
On 15/10/2010

Duncan, I believe Barkers had about 6 Leica 250s. Most were in the black finish but one of them was chrome. As you say these cameras used special cassettes containing 10 metres of film to give 250 exposures. These are very rare and valuable cameras these days. I also believe Barkers used Olympus Pen half frame cameras for the keyring viewers. The film used was Kodak Ektachrome and was processed in a small shop in Drakes Buildings near “the factory” at 22 St Peter’s Plain. To supplement the Leica 250s in the early 1950s Barkers used Agfa Silettes and the unusual British made Ilford Advocate. In later times various Japanese rangefinder cameras were used such as those made by Yashica. Barkers started in Lowestoft in the early 1920s but moved on to Great Yarmouth by the 1930s. They originally took walkie photographs with wooden cine cameras and printed them in strips of three. Before WW2 I believe they traded as “Cinesnaps” and had their processing facility at 63 Rodney Road, Great Yarmouth. Paul Godfrey.

By Paul Godfrey
On 06/12/2010

Hello Fellow Bloaters.... Something I failed to mention earlier..Before I worked officially for Barkers, I worked as a short trousered child alongside my father who in the early '50s was a Barkers photographer working with the big wooden tripod cameras at the bottom of Regent Rd and then on the seafront outside the Arcade amusements...(my mother ran a rifle range inside the Arcade..I used to hand out the tickets for my old man...His name was Sid.. When I became a happy snaps man myself in the 60s we would meet with unlicensed photographers known as Smudge Grafters, Harry the Horse was one, he would spend many an afternoon hiding from the law in the Empire Cinema..... I remember ranks of Mod and Rockers, the full width of the prom outside the Marina. 2 of us Happy Barkers Snap men would risk death and snap the whole line of Mods then race 50 yards up the prom and snap all the Rockers, giving them all tickets, we then retired to a beach cafe and watch the fun. One day a young Rolf Harris came towards me ..i lifted my camera and he started to hop like a Kangaroo..SNAP!! I got 'im. I thought..he would never want this pic,so I collected it myself. Edgar Barker went mad, Rolfs manager called in to collect it. I still have the photo. As regards the half frame camera, I used my own Canon Sureshot 72 pics. At the holiday camps in the evenings we also used a Polaroid plate camera, and by masking off the plate we could get 4 images per bromide .These were cut up in a back room and placed into little key fobs and sold on the night. In the very ,very early '50s my parents ran a Can Can stall and rifle range on Britannia Pier, I met all the stars of the time. I used to ride a small pony round the pier dressed as a cowboy to attract visitors to my parents rifle range. An American won 53 wins on the Can Can as he was determined to win the top prize of a very large Teddy Bear. I think his girlfriend must have been a little disappointed 'cos he turned round and gave it to me. I still have it. Does anyone know what happened to Miss Phillips? She was the art teacher at the Styles school. Without her my career would be very different today.

By Geoff Sumpter
On 28/01/2011

My father Vic keller and his friend Jack Mole used to smudge, as they called it, on the seafront, usually around wellington pier or the model village.  He made quite a lot of money at this photography business but never had a licence so Barkers would report my father to the council or police. This took place around the early 1970`s.   At home, in no 4 Perebrown Avenue, my mother and older sister Barbara Keller and proberly my older brother Victor Keller would have to put the photographs in the envelopes and stick stamps on the envolopes. My father used to travel to other seaside towns to smudge there too so we hardly saw my father during the summer months. I do remember my father having to appear in the magistrates court a couple of times but the fine was nothing compared to the money he was making. Great memories. I don't remember what type of camera he used but I don't think it was a Leica. I used to see my father leave the house usually in a suit and say, "where you going dad?" He used to reply, "smudging down the seafront". I remember finding hundreds of black and white photographs and he did make them pay before he sent the picture, no different from today really. But I must add he did send the pics. From what I remember Barkers used to wear the red blazers. I could be wrong but you could spot one a mile off, correct me if i'm wrong.

By frank
On 19/04/2011

Hi ex Barker boys, I too worked at Barkers from 1956 to 1958, during the summer season.  I was ticket boy for Johnny Stewart, down the Wellington Gardens and on the North seafront near the tennis courts...and worked in processing with Ronnie Bean and Archie, who used to do all Barkers signwriting.  I can also remember Billy Leggett, also did negative numbering with Archie...after 1958, I got a full time job with another well known photographer Donald R Nobbs on Regent Road, with whom I worked until 1968.....

By Ken Smith
On 02/04/2012

Whilst I'm known to Paul, I will introduce myself to the other contributors. I'm Jeffrey, youngest son of Ronnie Bean who ran the processing lab. I started off processing 35mm slide film (for keyrings and private films submitted via chemists stores for processing) and then became a seaside photographer for about 6 seasons. I started off doing B&W walkies using Leica 250s, graduated to keyrings and colour was introduced thereafter replacing the B&W. I recall using colour in the clubs at caravan parks in the evenings and have only just remembered that colour was introduced for walkies in the latter part of my tenure. That would have been from about 1971-72 I’m guessing. My last season was 1975. Other half frame cameras used for the keyrings included some Canons with a cylindrical clockwork wind-on mechanism and some Yashicas as well as the Olympus Pens (and Trips, I believe) already mentioned. None had the longevity of the Leicas!

By Jeffrey Bean
On 11/09/2013

Yes Geoff, patrolling the seafront in registration number '1066 AD' - a cherished plate transferred to his metallic blue Audi Coupe when the Roller went to that great scrapyard in the sky. I recall the first time I saw the Audi I mistook it for an Aston Martin and made some remark to Edgar about him pretending to be James Bond. I recall he was not amused. Would you know my brother Ronald, universally known as John? He attended the Styles school in the early 60s.

By Jeffrey Bean
On 11/09/2013

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