Do you know town’s history?

The 'bank group' held in the Spanton Jarman collection
The 'bank group' held in the Spanton Jarman collection
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HOW well do you know the history of Bury St Edmunds?

That’s the question being posed by the town’s Past and Present Society as it tries to put names to places and people in a newly-digitised collection of 900 photographs.

The Spanton Jarman photographs, dating from 1860 onwards, have been placed online after five years of fund-raising and research.

After exhaustive efforts from a team of volunteers, almost every picture in the collection has been identified and recorded for posterity.

But the identities of people and places in at least 20 of the photographs remain a mystery and the society is now urging people to comb the catalogue and see if they spot a familiar face.

Betty Milburn, a member of the society, said the images were a window into Bury’s past and getting the last captions in place would be the finishing touch.

“We have worked for a long time on this project and had a lot of input from local historians, all volunteers.

“Now we need sharp-eyed readers who can spot something to come forward and help us finish this fantastic collection,” she said.

Anonymous images include what appear to be a line-up of police officers, a group of uniformed cyclists and a hospital team.

Mrs Milburn said the catalogue would allow people to see the changing face of Bury. One area that has altered significantly since the 1860s is Abbeygate Street – the site of the offices of William Spanton, the photographer who began the collection in 1864.

“The quality of the photos is remarkable and you really get a sense of the place – particularly as many of the buildings still remain today.

“But you can also see how many of the buildings have moved, especially in Abbeygate Street where a fire destroyed many of them in 1882,” she said.

The collection’s original glass negatives were donated to the Past and Present Society by former member Oswald Jarman, whose family bought the Spanton business in 1901.

After a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid, the society were able to convert them into a digital format and place them on their website,

If you can help, contact the society through the ‘Contact Us’ link on the website.