When Deakins and Ravilious were taking these photographs it was a really pivotal time in history for North Devon

As part of a three year-long project, 10,000 previously unseen photographs from the Beaford Archive are being catalogued and digitised ready for you to view online. These photographs present an incredible record of life in North Devon over two decades from the 1970s and we hope you enjoy them. 

Emma Down, our Archivist explains more: 

‘I catalogue the Beaford Archive so this means I’m responsible for creating a database of the negatives and contact sheets of the photographs by James Ravilious and Roger Deakins.  So far we’ve got around eighty thousand negatives and around two and a half thousand contact sheets so it’s a big task we’re undertaking! Fortunately, I’ve got a group of very dedicated volunteers who have been helping me with this task. 

There are certainly some common themes in the Archive. The biggest theme by far is the rural environment but also one of the big subjects is community. There are lots of carnivals and fairs and there’s a sense of community spirit that comes through, especially at harvest time when everyone comes together and helps each other to get the crops in. You still feel that sense of community today so for me, the Archive shows not just the history of Devon but the unique identity of the region. 

If you’re looking at the Archive from a social history aspect, there’s huge amounts of historical enquiry to be had in terms of how ordinary people would have lived up to fifty years ago.  There’s also a sense of how things have changed.  When Ravilious and Deakins were taking these photographs, it was a really pivotal time in history for North Devon. Things were rapidly changing: new housing estates were coming up, industry was changing a lot, mechanisation was really coming to the fore and things like the North Devon link road signalled more change as Devon became more accessible for tourism and trade. 

For Devon people it’s interesting to see this alongside a representation of our communities and our families  - some people will have relatives that they will recognise  - so there’s a strong connection on a personal level.  There’s a lot to get out of the Archive and I’m excited to see people’s responses.’