Friday, February 15, 2008


Nestled in the English countryside about 20 km East of Bath, with its "National Trust Approved Exteriors" is an old English village. Nearly everything in England has a historical story or two or more. This town has an amazing one, with implications far beyond its sleepy confines. There is an old Abbey adjacent to the town, taken from the Catholic Church when Henry the VIII established the C of E in 1534. On its own, the Abbey is well worth a look: with a restored brewery, cloisters, a sphinx on a tower and of course, the main house itself. But what really distinguishes this sleepy little place is that exactly three hundred years after Henry's "liberation" the owner of the Abbey, a certain William Henry Fox Talbot developed the photographic process* there. On a tour of the house you can stand where the first photograph was taken and see the exact scene- there is even a working camera (in replica, of course) in its proper position. There aren't many birthplaces of an important invention as this is in such "picturesque", yet humble surroundings.

Talbot's invention isn't quite obsolete, but, with the advent of digital imaging, it is headed in that direction. The village, the ancient Abbey and its grounds may last longer than the process it fostered.

*Daguerre, who is also credited with the invention of photography, created images by a different process, a process that was obsolete by 1865.

By Professor Batty


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