Early 20th Century photos by E C Woods
Walter James Grant and his wife Alice
Outside the children’s home in Victoria Road
Many historical photos in Louth Museum and elsewhere show prestigious people and places. Louth photographer E C Woods, in his professional capacity, recorded images of people from all walks of life. Here are two early 20th Century photos of ordinary people.
Walter and Alice Grant were examples of the many working-class people living in the Louth area, who had a hard life with limited economic resources. The photo shows Walter looking as if he doesn't feel at ease. His garments are slightly crumpled, but he has made an effort with a clean shirt, with collar and tie. His fob watch and signet ring were probably family heirlooms. Waistcoats were worn almost all the time in the 1920s, and his short-back-and-sides hairstyle was typical of the period.
Alice, such an attractive lady, is wearing a dress that was obviously home-made. It is plain and practical, but an attempt has been made to make it look pretty with the fringe at the neck and waist. Both Alice and Walter have hardwearing laced-up boots.
Born in North Elkington in 1890, Walter was one of at least eight children in the family of agricultural labourer, John Grant and his wife Eliza. Eliza died when Walter was only nine years old, and John remarried in 1903. The school registers show that young Walter started school in Withcall in 1896, and moved to Burwell School in 1900. At the age of 20, in 1911, he was a living-in worker with a farming family in Fotherby.
Walter Grant and Alice Houghton married in 1925, and almost certainly it would have been this event that motivated them to arrange for their photo to be taken in Woods’ studio. Walter was then 35 years old, and Alice aged 26, was the daughter of an agricultural labourer in Withcall. Walter and Alice had only one child, Leslie Walter Grant, born in 1926. In the pre-war register of 1939, the family were living in Muckton, where Walter was the ‘road labourer’. Walter died in 1943 (age 53), and then three years later Leslie died when he was only 20. Alice remarried in 1959.
The second photo shows two girls outside the St Margaret’s Home for Girls in Victoria Road, Louth. The older girl is wearing a smart practical school uniform gymslip, dark stockings and laced-up shoes. The little girl wears bar shoes, a style that was still being sold by Clarks in the 1980's. She wouldn't look out of place in the 2020's.
We don’t know the identities of the girls, but we do know something about the location. The building that is now the Beaumont Hotel was purpose-built to accommodate 30 girls aged 3 to 16, along with the matron and assistant matron. The home was opened by the Church of England Society for Waifs and Strays (now the Children’s Society) in 1912. After World War II, St Margaret’s took in boys too. It closed in 1969.
How come we have these photos in Louth Museum? Many years ago the museum’s late president David Robinson, obtained from the premises of John Bourne in the Manor House in Eastgate, an enormous collection of early 20th Century glass negatives of photos, which came from the photographic studio of E C Woods. Over the past few years museum volunteer Keith Scott, with tremendous effort, has made digital copies of all these photos. The vast majority of the photos are portraits. Those that have any information (name, place or date) have been entered onto the museum’s database. Edward Catlin Woods died in 1923, but some of the photos were taken after this; if you have any knowledge about who continued the E C Woods photographic business after 1923, do please contact the museum.