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A family collection of black-and-white photos shows the town of Bude in Cornwall and the ships that wrecked on the rocky coast there from the 18th century to the early 20th

Ian Harvey

250 black-and-white photographs from a private collection have been published by Halsgrove Publishing in a 140-page book called Thorns of Bude, by David and Stuart Thorn.

The collection of photographs includes shipwrecks, streets, beaches, buildings, and local people of Cornwall – from the mid-1800s to the early 20th century.

The Thorns, who took these photographs, were not recognized for their work portraying the Cornish town of Bude; their descendants, who have published this stunning book, are hoping to change that.  The photographs from the Thorn family are found all over Bude, and that may be why they have been overlooked.

The first photographer was Harry Thorn.  He began the collection in the late 1850s and had to use a dark room or tent to make and process the negatives at the scene of the photos.  This was early on in the use of photography when it took about half an hour to make a negative.  He was joined later in his photography enterprise by his brother, his sister, and one of his grandchildren and her husband, Mail Online reported.

The two Thorn cousins, David and Stuart, gathered together everything they needed for this book; they had to use family archives, observations, and notes as well as the collection of glass negatives.  They were very lucky to have family friends who had preserved some of the glass negatives to prevent them from leaving the area.

Other Bude collectors and historians have also contributed information and photographs.  The research was in-depth, with names, dates, and stories put to each photograph.  By using census records and other historical documents, they were able to date some of the pictures and, surprisingly, correct some of the information about the photographed event.

The photos show the town of Bude as it was back in the 1800s.  The beaches are a particular focus of the book, showing how the residents spent their time there.  They often witnessed shipwrecks, and they celebrated the annual Bude Lifeboat Day.  One of the most famous of the shipwrecks was of the Bencoolen in 1962. Twenty-seven of the thirty-two-man crew died after the ship ran into trouble in a storm.  The timber was salvaged and used in the town for a building.

Read another story from us: Noted shipwrecks from around the world: an eerie reminder that nothing lasts forever

The area was also known as Wreckers Coast due to wreckers, who would lure the ships to the rocks so they could be plundered.  It is unclear if this actually happened or is a myth due to the high-wreck rate in the area.  The photographs have that eerie feel that only early photographs have, especially the ones of the shipwrecks and the men on the rocks watching to see if they can help in any way.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News