Some of the 56 medals awarded to Frank Meadow Sutcliffe sold for £6500 at Dix Noonan Webb.

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Sutcliffe, from Whitby, was one of the first photographers to create ‘art’ from his images. His medals, dating from 1874-97, were offered as a single lot by London auction house Dix Noonan Webb (24% buyer’s premium) on June 2-3.

The medals ranged from local places such as Keighley to Scotland, the US, Germany and Austria. They were consigned by a private vendor. Estimated at £2400-3000, they sold for £6500 to a private buyer in North Yorkshire.

Sutcliffe was born in Headingley, Leeds, the eldest of eight children of the painter Thomas Sutcliffe. He first worked in Tunbridge Wells before returning to the family home in Broomfield Terrace, Whitby, and later moving with his wife Eliza, née Duck, and their four children, to the nearby village of Sleights.

Sutcliffe made a living as a portrait photographer, influenced by prominent figures in the world of art such as John Ruskin, to whom he was introduced as a boy by his father.

His work provided an enduring record of life in and around Whitby in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Sutcliffe’s most famous photograph, Water Rats (1886), featuring naked children playing in a boat, earned him condemnation from his local clergy who excommunicated him - but did not stop the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) from purchasing a copy.

Showered with awards

Peter Preston-Morley, head of the coin department at DNW, said: “This is the first that I have seen such an extensive collection of photography medals awarded to one person.

“When these medals were awarded between 1870s-90s, photography was still a relatively new phenomenon – you normally see more dating from the end of the Victorian era, so 1900-10 onwards.

“Sutcliffe was obviously at the forefront of his game, and was showered with awards, not only on a regional level from Yorkshire, but also nationally and internationally.”