The Andor Gomme Collection
The Andor Gomme Collection shows England's towns and villages during the 1950s – a period of rapid change. Across nearly 2,200 photographs, the collection provides a record of both traditional market towns and modern urban centres.
Austin Harvey Gomme (1930-2008), known as Andor, was Professor of English Literature and Architectural History at Keele University. He wrote a number of works on architectural history and from 1988-1991 was Chair of the Society of Architectural Historians.
During the 1950s Gomme travelled widely across the country recording the built environment. The photographs he took at that time, now held by the Historic England Archive, depict the towns and villages of England during a period of rapid change. This change was driven by a combination of factors; the after effects of the war, the growing importance of the motor car and a drive to modernise. The collection reflects this, providing a record of traditional market towns and modern urban centres.
Gomme was also attracted to the ‘New Towns’ erected as part of the post-war reconstruction programme. Amongst other locations he visited Harlow, Basildon and Hatfield. Photographs illustrating the boom in local authority housing are a recurrent theme throughout the collection, with Gomme typically recording the traditional buildings in a town centre and the new council estates springing up on its outskirts.
When Gomme came to Swindon in March 1957 he recorded the ‘Old Town’ and the Victorian town centre. He also visited Walcot and Park South where he photographed the newly constructed Local Authority estates on the town’s eastern boundary.
Gomme mounted his photographs on card, arranged alphabetically by county and location. Many of the cards include annotated, hand-drawn maps indicating not only the spot from which each was taken, but also the direction in which the camera was pointing.