The Open Spaces Society have now uploaded their lantern slides images to their website: http://images.oss.org.uk/
You can purchase hi-resolution copies of the images from their website.
I’m still working my way through them all, classifying them and geo-locating them. The images are collated in themes, presumably in different boxes that were taken along to illustrate different talks and campaigns.
There is a whole ‘box’ for example on the Pilgrim’s Way in Hampshire.
I will be doing the stats on which places are represented in the collection as soon as I’ve finished geo-locating everything, but it seems that the 1000 or so slides focus mainly on southern England, and are often records of places just after they had been preserved or bought by the National Trust and other bodies for the benefit of the public – e.g. Kenwood and Hampstead Heath figure highly. There are hardly any slides from northern England or Wales. The focus is also on large areas, and long-distance footpaths.
These are the main themes I am going to explore:
a) rivers and waterways – riparian access issues
There is a whole section of images of rivers and waterways, in connection with various campaigns to open up towpaths and access to embankments etc. Riparian access is still an issue today.
b) Woods and forests
There are many slides showing woods, and particularly individual trees and broad-leaved deciduous. This derives from contemporary concerns about the impact of new plantations of conifers and sylviculture, both by 19th century estates and by the 1919 Forestry Commission.
One could refer to the historic symbolism and uses of the ‘old oaks’ (for perambulations, boundaries, etc)
Burnham Beeches is a large section of the collection, and I have been in contact with a conservator from the City of London about the trees.
The impact of the 1987 great storm on the trees that are pictured in the collection would be an interesting side-project.
c) trespass and access campaigns
There is one ‘box’ of lantern slides showing a of the OSS’s campaigns. These include a few images like this:
I’ll write a future blog post about the Sunnyside Bradford trespass campaign in 1930.
There is another slide showing the society removing obstructions at Ribchester, Lancashire, 1930, but very little about this, so this is something I will look into more. If anyone has any information about this, let me know.
And more individual actions such as ‘removing an obstruction, Otterburn, Northumberland, February 1936’. Also actions against farmers ploughing up of footpaths, e.g. between Banstead and Woodmansterne, Surrey.
d) Rural modernism and infrastructure
The changing landscape of roads, petrol stations, telegraph poles and power lines.
Ewell was the first public petrol station: http://mk1-forum.net/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=3602&start=320
My Rural Modernism network has been working on these themes, so there is much material on the impact of energy and transport infrastructure on landscapes, and the role of preservationist campaigns in e.g. public enquiries.
Militarisation and requisitioning of landscapes during and after World War I is also a related theme. See the excellent studies by Marianna Dudley on this topic for the post WWII period.