The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Portland re-captured

The Steps in Time Image Project is making an invaluable contribution to recording Portland’s history. Lorraine Camp tells its story.

Portland Castle and grounds. When was the wall demolished?

The Steps in Time Image Project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to encourage members of the community to produce an archive of images on the life and times of Portlanders from the dawn of photography to 1945. Since June 2004, around 5000 images have so far been collected, recorded and described from over 115 individual private photographic collections. Back-up documentation is produced when the images are collected. This forms a loan contract and an itemised inventory for the lender and the project. All photographs are returned after recording. Volunteers have been directly involved in the project from the start and have trained as image collectors, collators, data inputters, researchers and outreach workers.

Dodger Cutting at Easton. Dodger had the habit of dressing his cows with hats and flowers on special occasions. Once, after attending a Salvation Army service at Eaton Square, he enquired as to the whereabouts of the ‘green hill far away’ so he could graze his cows on it!

Generally, only basic information is included with the images such as who, where and when, but sometimes interesting snippets of information are included. For example, the information concerning the photographs of ‘Dodger’ Cutting came from a family member living in Bradford who had seen the images on the website. He told us that Dodger was employed by his mother to tend her animals. These animals lived in the house next door to them in Gypsy Lane, Weston, and were grazed on verges and commons. The Ministry of Agriculture and Health inspected the house and issued a ‘clean up’ order. Dodger responded by re-decorating the house, adding a carpet, a harmonium and pictures to the walls, thus thwarting the Ministry.

Convicts working stone at New Ground for the construction of the Verne Citadel

The Jack Knapp (an alias) images were linked to a document that had come in with another collection. This document told us that he was banned from all establishments that sold intoxicating liquor in Dorset. Is he also the infamous ‘Knapper Jack’, known in archaeological circles for messing up local prehistoric sites through ‘knapping demonstrations’ for visitors?

It is very difficult to get information on pre-1935 images, because the owner either cannot remember or may have died, so many of the images have little or no information associated with them. These are taken to community events to provoke discussion and identification. Individuals with specialist knowledge are invited to visit the office to look at the research file slideshow to add information. The project has a local naval and military researcher who can give the ‘who, where and when’ just by looking at the detail of a uniform or cap badge.

The captain of the Madeline Tristan thought he was off the north coast of France when in fact he was ashore in Chesil Cove in September 1930

The archive is unique because it consists of images and associated information that have not and would not usually be placed in the public domain. They are images that could be lost through everyday risks and events such as fire, flood, death, moving house or household dispersal. The archive includes a Portland surname section, a valuable resource for genealogists.

Many of the images can be seen on the SITIP website at This has been designed, set up and maintained by the volunteer webmaster, Geoff Kirby. Some of the images are linked to Geoff’s own ‘Exploring Portland’ website, where a comparison can be made between the old scenes on this website and the new scenes on Geoff’s. There have been over 35,000 visits to the website to date and this will increase as more images are added. There have been hits from over18 different countries, including Australia, Japan and Germany.

Fishing for sprats off Chesil Beach. Can anyone identify the date or exact spot, or the men in the photograph?

A three-volume DVD of the archive is available for libraries and history study centres and will be on general sale from April 2007. A slideshow presentation of the project can be given to local groups on request. A second project is planned that will enable people to drop into a digital processing centre to record their stories relating to post-1945 images from their own collections.

Volunteers and lenders of collections are always welcome at the project at 33 Portland Square, Southwell Business Park (01305 862225). The project office is open from 10.30 to 4.30 on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Portland Ladies Football Team in about 1913, with a few ‘ringers’ in the shape of at least one man. Why the fancy dress?

Splitting stone in the 1960s. The man doing the splitting is unknown, but the figure on the right is Paul Knight. The AEC ‘Mammoth Major’ lorry in the background was driven by Alan (‘Ruchet’) Stone.

Len Gee and Robert Spencer Hinde in the Royal Exchange pub post-1945

Fortuneswell in about 1898

The Channel Fleet in Portland Roads, photographed from Sandsfoot Castle, Weymouth

William Stone, alias Jack Knapp, was a Daily Mail newspaper seller and habitual drunkard, banned by magistrates from all pubs on Portland

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