Lionel Bathe Collection

Scope and Content

Lionel Bathe's collection of colour and black and white negatives is a jewel in the crown for the Archive and contains images of Bathe's favourite subjects - the British Galloper, and also many circus images.

Bathe's photographs were primarily in colour, at a time when this was not the normal practice (and very expensive). Subsequently his pictures have a surreal edge in that you look twice, tricked into thinking they are later than they are, then you observe the dress codes, the somewhat more 'ordered' way of life in the post-war period, and you fully appreciate the value of these images.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lionel Bathe was part of the dedicated group of fairground and steam enthusiasts who grew up and attended the fairs and rallies around the Bristol and Gloucestershire region. Lionel, however, was also the son of a photographer and had access to, and a willingness to experiment with, early forms of colour film. This makes Lionel's collection of large format negatives a very special part of the archive - if any set of photographs spoke for themselves, then these are them. The bright colours and cultural aspects of the 1950s make Lionel's images unreal - you have to look twice to take in that they are actually from these early days.

Lionel, and the other Gloucestershire enthusiasts, had their favourite fairs, the hustle and bustle of Oxford St. Giles, the sheer scale of Bridgwater St. Matthews, the splendid presentations in Gloucester and Cheltenham, and of course sheer joy that greeted the regular appearance of Percy Cole's Steam Gondolas. Lionel also took regular trips to South Wales, to Southsea, and photographed the Festival of Britain and associated Battersea fun fair.

The prints reflect not only the machines of the era, but also a way of life. Lionel was close to many showmen, and his collection includes many personal images. He also photographed some of the large (and smaller) circuses visiting the region, and documented the very first traction engine rallies as the preservation movement began with its first steps.

Lionel was obviously very meticulous with his notetaking and indexing, and always willing to loan out prints to friends and publications, though his collection came to us with much of the indexing out of alignment. It has been a rewarding process to both digitise these fine images, and to unscramble the notebooks and attempt to track down the details for each picture.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection forms part of the NFA's Digital Collections and can be accessed by making an appointment to view the database.

Acquisition Information

Donation secured with the help of Graham Downie

Other Finding Aids

On image database.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Jane Donaldson

Related Material

Dick Price, John Gale, Rowland Scott, Philip Swindlehurst, Ron Taylor, George Tucker.


Personal Names