When I first moved to Pembrokeshire, back in the early 1980s, a fascinating discovery had just been made in the area: a cache of negative plates taken by a local photographer, Tom Mathias, 1866-1940. The plates had been rescued and restored by another photographer, James Maxwell Davies, and were put on display in the village where I’d just arrived.
I was fascinated by them and bought several copies as they are so atmospheric, so inspiring in their portrayal of life at the start of the 20th century. The life of the local gentry was there: the mansions, the hunts, the carriages, the fat babies and scholars, the dignified gents and stately ladies posing for the camera.
Not just the gentry though. Their servants are there, gathered en masse for a photographic record but also at work, along with a myriad of photographs of ordinary people leading their ordinary lives, at chapel, in the street, sawing logs, turning hay, working in the slate quarries, catching salmon in their coracles, trying out the earliest tractors.
Here is just a small sample.
Perhaps it’s this photograph of haymaking that imprinted itself most firmly on my mind as an image of the past in these parts. I carry it with me.