1884 – 1958
Sydney Smith captured and recorded every aspect of rural life in this part of the North Riding between 1900 and 1956, when he retired. The extensive collection at Beck Isle Museum includes his impressive portraits and landscapes as well as his skilled studio work and popular postcards. His work has provided us with a unique record of life in and around Pickering, capturing people, events and landscape.
He was born in 1884 and lived at No 1, Franchise Terrace with twelve brothers and sisters (the Terrace was constructed by his father, a Pickering builder).
An early photograph of Franchise Terrace
At fourteen years of age he started work as a delivery boy at the Pickering branch of the Co-op, where the Manager showed him how to make a pinhole camera and this began his interest in photography. From around 1900 he developed a photography business in Park Street, Pickering which was a small wooden shed that later became his garage (now the Station Hotel car park), When he married in 1912 the business took over a former coffee shop at no 13, Market Place in Pickering and developed a studio and shop there; he received enthusiastic assistance from his wife Maud with the growing business.
Studio work was supplemented by the production and sale of postcards. These were highly remarkable. He not only photographed local scenes but published whole series of cards – up to 36 per set – to record such events as floods, snowstorms, local celebrations and notable visitors to Pickering.
They lived above the shop for forty years, with Maud running the photography business and indeed taking photographs herself whenever Sydney was unable too.
Pictured above, the Master Photographer with his camera, Sydney Smith wearing his familiar Trilby Hat.
A tiny part of the museum’s photography collection, which includes the Camera Room.
The impressive collections of local images at Beck Isle number around 25,000 with a camera collection of 400+.