One of the features of the Covid-19 lockdown is that many people have spent time unearthing things of interest from their homes and attics and researching their history. As a result, although Wallingford Museum has been unable to re-open yet, we have been receiving a gentle flow of historical questions.

One such email came from Hong Kong, concerning Thomas Digges, a Wallingford MP in 1572 who was renowned as a mathematician and astronomer. I did my best to answer the query, and was delighted to discover in a reply email, that the enquirer was the son of the late Wallingford photographer Michael Latter.

Latter’s shop closed in the 1980’s but, just on the off chance, I asked if the Latter family happened to have any old Wallingford photos from their father, explaining that we are always hoping to come across more historic images.

Within a couple of days another email arrived, this time from Australia! It was from James Latter, who lives three hours south of Sydney. His brother in Hong Kong had forwarded our request and James informed me that he had ‘eight bins’ of pictures and was aiming to go through them to alleviate his boredom during the Australian lockdown’!

To cut a long story short, not only did he have a few old Wallingford photos, but he also had four paintings by his great-aunt Kate Latter - a keen Wallingford artist in the early 1900s. James then most kindly arranged the donation of all these items to Wallingford Museum, which have now safely arrived by post from Australia, despite all the current problems!

Kate Latter was born in 1882, the second of four children of James Alfred Latter. Her father opened a photographic shop in St Mary’s St, Wallingford in 1885 which was to survive for over 100 years. Kate helped in the family business, using her artistic skills to hand tint photographs. She also enjoyed painting local scenes and was almost certainly a pupil of the talented artist Claude Rowbotham, who was giving art lessons in 1902 in a ‘floating studio’ at the landing stage near Wallingford bridge. Kate married Herbert Allaway in 1921 but they had no children.

Kate’s elder brother William eventually took over the photographic business from James, and was later followed by his son Michael, who ran the shop until he retired in 1980. During the Second World War, Michael was an army war photographer, taking hundreds of photos, some of which are now in the Imperial War Museum. Michael’s son James (who sent us the pictures) is still a keen photographer and kindly included some pictures of his own from Australia.

How grateful we are to the Latter family, and how lucky it was that we all had enforced time on our hands to be able to follow up questions and requests - a real silver lining in the dark skies! When Wallingford Museum is able to re-open, we shall certainly feature the Latter pictures for all to share.

The captions for the photos are as follows:

1. Photographer James A. Latter and his wife Emma in 1895, with their children William and Kate (standing), baby Dorothy, and younger son Ernest (who survived WWI but died in the 1918 flu epidemic).

2. William J Latter’s shopfront in St Mary’s Street, Wallingford, c. late 1920s

3. Kate May Latter (born 1882)

4. Kate Latter watercolour of Wallingford Bridge

5. Michael Latter: a newspaper picture with the silver miniature plate camera, presented to him on the 100th anniversary of the Wallingford photographic shop.