Society recreates Brockley picture taken during WWI

The Brockley Society chairwoman Clare Cowen with the 1918 photo Pic: Caitlin Burns

The Brockley Society chairwoman Clare Cowen with the 1918 photo Pic: Caitlin Burns

How have the demographics of Brockley changed in nearly 100 years? That is what the Brockley Society hopes to answer with its “Brockley: Then and Now” event on 19 July. 

“We found this photo in the archive,” Brockley Society chairwoman Clare Cowen said about the photograph taken 4 August 1918 during World War I. “We just thought it was an amazing photo, and why not recreate it?”

Before the photo can be recreated in Hilly Fields Park the Brockley Society needs to fundraise between £6,000 and £8,000 to cover the expenses of hosting the “Brockley: Then and Now” event.

Fundraising began two weeks ago through PatchworkPresents, which enables donors to contribute directly to an expense, such as the cost of hiring a photographer, renting public facilities, or having first aid on site.

Cowen described the event as having “substantial expenses” to meet the needs of such a large gathering.

The Brockley Society is also accepting sponsorships for this event.

“I think there’s an innate interest in history,” Cowen said about why the society has received immense interest from the community about the photo and its recreation.

Cowen said: “The trees are smaller, but we know exactly where it is. A lot of people find it interesting because you can see these are real people.”

The Brockley Society hopes to have about 1,000 people gather along the hillside of Hilly Fields Park, above where the cricket pitch is today, to recreate the nearly 100-year-old photograph. Cowen said it would be interesting to see the differences between the photo and today’s residents.

“The thing that fascinates everyone is how different they look,” Cowen said. The biggest notable differences, she said, is who the people in the photo are. “Everyone is in hats and they’re all white.

“Also there are very few young men, since the war was still going on. And the few pictured are in a military uniform.”

Cowen hopes that everyone who participates in the new photo has some connection to Brockley, whether it is growing up in the area, working in the community, or having relations there.

Anyone interested in participating in the “Brockley: Then and Now” event should gather at Hilly Fields at 2 pm on 19 July, with the photo scheduled for 3 pm.

The photo that the Brockley Society wants to recreate shows thousands of people gathered in Hilly Field after a procession to commemorate the beginning of the war. Cowen said records show approximately 10,000 people participated in the first photo.

The hardcopy the society has from the archive is actually a copy of a copy, and they are uncertain about where the original is currently located. Cowen said they are investigating the original’s whereabouts.

In order to make a donation or be a sponsor, visit the Brockley Society website.

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