Fonds MC 3274 - Glass Plate Negatives of Sydney Denny

Reference code

MC 3274


Glass Plate Negatives of Sydney Denny


  • c 1900-c 1917 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

752 glass plate negatives; 752 digital images

Name of creator


Biographical history

Sydney William Denny (1886-1960) was born in Harleston, the son of George Denny (1860-1903), ironmonger, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Denny, née Everson (1861-1943). The couple had three other children: Hedley (b 1885), Violet (b 1888) and Grace (b 1896). After the death of George Denny in 1903, his widow carried on the family ironmongers, G. Denny and Sons, at 1, The Thoroughfare, Harleston, until Hedley and George were old enough to take over the business.
Sydney Denny was a keen photographer, and some 752 of his glass plate photographs of local people, buildings and views survive, most relating to Harleston, but some to nearby villages in Norfolk and Suffolk. Denny is not listed as a professional photographer in local directories.
In 1909 Sydney married May Cutting (1881-1931). The couple had two sons, George b 1910 and Moreton b 1913. The family lived in a house called Haroldstone on Needham Road, Harleston, and then moved to The Old House in the Old Market Place, Harleston, which they ran as a guest house. It is believed that they also started a tea room in the former Grice's grocery store opposite their own shop, which began as a Sunday afternoon enterprise, but had become a restaurant by 1917, and expanded to include also the premises of Eastman the butcher's. After May's death from tuberculosis in 1931, Sydney married Nellie Wilkinson (1893-1987).
Hedley and Sydney Denny ran the ironmongers business together, and were later joined by Sydney's son Moreton. Sydney died in 1960. There is a series of stained glass windows in St John's church, Harleston in his memory. Moreton Denny continued to run the ironmongers until he sold the business in 1979.

Archival history

The negatives were found in Denny's ironmongers when the building and its contents were sold.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Received by the Norfolk Record Office on 3 June 2008 (ACC 2008/70). Catalogued February 2018 (JW).

Scope and content

Glass plate negatives, c 1904-c 1920s, taken by Sydney Denny of Harleston, comprising images of local people, buildings and views. They relate mostly to Harleston, but some relate to nearby villages in Norfolk and Suffolk. Most of the photographs are undated, but those which can be dated seem to be from c 1904-c 1914.
This collection also includes digital images of the glass plates (in JPG format) converted to positive images, which were taken by Ian Carstairs in 2008 (catalogued in series MC 3274/3 and MC 3274/4).

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

There are two series of glass plates. The smaller quarter plates (series with catalogue references starting MC 3274/2) seem to be largely of Denny's family and friends, and appear to have been taken earlier than the larger plates (although there is some overlap). The larger half plates (series with catalogue references starting MC 3274/1) are more professional photographs; they include studio portraits with painted backdrops, and the images are generally of better quality.
The glass plates were originally wrapped in tissue paper, each labelled with the negative's number and often giving information about the subjects photographed. Well before their transfer to the Norfolk Record Office, the glass plates were re-packaged into paper bags because the old packaging material was deteriorating. Any information on the original packaging was copied onto the bags. In 2017, the glass plates were cleaned and repackaged into archive-quality enclosures by Record Office volunteers. Information from the old packaging was transferred to the catalogue entries.

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Please contact the curator at Harleston Museum (which owns copyright) for permission to use images for commercial purposes. Copies may be taken for personal research use without the need to apply to the Museum for permission.

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Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For notes on the Denny family and a descriptive list of the glass plate negatives, see MC 3431. For additional glass plate negatives, received from the same source in 2018 and 2022, see MC 3574.

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