A remarkable photograph album sold for £3000 by Rowley’s (21.5% buyer’s premium) of Ely in a September 5-6 sale indicates that for those who spent time at the local German prisoner-of-war camp – known to its English-speaking occupants as ‘Thorn’ – life had some pleasures as well as its privations.
Compiled by Company Sergeant Major JSW Newton, it contains 294 photographs of everyday life in the camp, featuring roll-calls and other group gatherings, along with various theatrical productions, pantomimes, concert parties, orchestras and military bands, even highland dancing.
The cobbler’s shop, library, ‘delouser’ and cookhouse all feature in the album, along with impressively staged funerals, but there is a definite emphasis on leisure. Sporting life at the camp included boxing, football and cricket, even a 1943 Australia v England ‘Empire Games’.
A couple of pencil portrait sketches and a watercolour of Newton, along with a printed and signed copy of the programme for one of those theatrical evenings, were also part of this fascinating lot.
(The Dominic Winter sale reported this week offered a 1905 first of Baroness Orczy’s novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel. It showed some spotting throughout and the pictorial cloth binding was rubbed, but it was reckoned a good example of an uncommon work and sold at £980.)
Sold at £5500 in the Ely sale was an album of photographs taken in 1860 by the photographer Felice Beato. They focus on events and figures, both English and Chinese, at the time of the Opium Wars.