Image: detail of Sidney Francis (1891-1973), Billy Pitcher’s Band, reproduced by permission of Surrey History Centre

Travel back in time to Woking’s with images taken by former Woking resident Sidney Francis (1891-1973), showing glimpses of what Woking was like nearly 100 years ago. The photographs offer an insight into life in Woking and nearby towns and villages in the 1920s and 1930s. The fascinating and uplifting collection of photos includes wedding parties, sports teams, Eid celebrations, parades, dancers and musicians, and is testament to Woking's vibrant and diverse community spirit.

Visitors to the exhibition discovered local residents dressing up and celebrating Woking Carnival in 1927; family-owned businesses such as dairies, butchers, printers and confectioners proudly displaying their wares; crowds gathering for Remembrance Day memorials; religious holidays at the Shah Jahan Mosque (Britain’s first purpose-built mosque) and families coming together for modest yet joyful weddings.


Sidney Francis (1891-1973), Madame Martinez de la Rivas sitting on garden seat with her son, , reproduced by permission of Surrey History Centre

Sidney Francis, "photographic chemist"

Sidney Francis was born Sidney Francis Patient in Southwark. By the time of the 1911 census, he was working as a photographer's assistant in Crawley, Sussex. By 1916 he was working as a photographer in Godalming. During the First World War, he served in the Royal Air Force, possibly in a photographic unit.

From 1923 Francis lived at 88 Maybury Road in Woking, where he also ran his photography business. Often describing himself as a "photographic chemist", Francis' work included wedding photography, commissions for local businesses, event photography for local newspapers the 'Woking News & Mail' and 'Surrey Advertiser', and commissions for 'The Islamic Review'.

14 July - 7 October 2018