Douglas Allen opened his studio at No. 7 Friarn Street in 1948 and specialised in commercial, industrial and public relations
work as well as family work such as weddings and birthdays.
He also produced photographs for newspapers, such as the Bridgwater Mercury.
In 1952 he set up a small studio in the High Street and he later moved to St John Street. He took on an assistant, Don
Smith, who later became his partner, and who, on Douglas Allen’s retirement in about 1985, took over the business.
Following Don Smith’s death in 1999 some 15,000 – 20,000 negatives covering the period 1954 – 1960 were given to the
museum; those for 1948 – 1954 having been destroyed previously. The remainder, covering 1960 to 1999 were retained by
the firm which took the business over, and they supplied prints from the collection for customers.
That business ceased trading in 2011 and the museum was given the remaining negatives, which are held in secure
storage. The entire collection is estimated at 150.000 negatives and over 12,000 distinct jobs.
The collection contains a valuable record of 45 years of Bridgwater and West Country life, and shows how the urban and
country landscapes have changed. It illustrates the building of the M5 and Hinkley Point power station, the Blake Bridge,
Bridgwater and modern housing estates. It shows numerous small shops and commercial concerns. It shows country life
and changes in agricultural methods. It shows streetscapes now demolished, and many leisure activities such as the
Bridgwater carnival, sports and social clubs.
Having been saved from possible destruction, the collection has been catalogued and their condition examined and
recorded. Due to the nature of the negative material, there are a number that have deteriorated and cannot be saved. A
small dedicated team have now started to systematically make high resolution scans of them all, and which will take a
number of years to complete.
Douglas Allen in action 1957
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From Stone Age to Modern Age, there’s something for everyone.
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