Sutton Writers

Past on Glass

Past on Glass (POG) is a project led by the Heritage Services of Sutton library, to catalogue, digitise and where necessary restore some 10000 glass photographic plates.

The plates were produced by a local photographer, David Knights-Whittome, between 1900 and 1920, using the techniques of the time. He had a shop in Sutton and held royal warrants, from the British and also from the Portuguese royal families. 

They were discovered in the basement of an opticians in Sutton, when the shop was being demolished as part of a road widening scheme.

Sutton Writers Involvement:

Funding was given by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to recover some of the plates and this first grant enabled about 4000 plates to be dealt with.

Sutton Writers agreed to offer a letter of support for a second funding application. This was to complete the recording of the plates but was also to include creative writing about them. It was hoped this would lead to a book published in 2018, and also provide a series of writing classes.

This was a great opportunity for Sutton Writers to participate, in fact lead, a flagship writing project in the Borough.

With our support a further £95000 was obtained from HLF.

A large number of prints are available at flickr/photos/pastonglass.

These photographs are not only a fascinating insight into life in Sutton at the start of the 20th Century, but could also provide of rich source of writing prompts. So take a look and see what ideas you can come up with.  

From December 2019, funding for the Past on Glass/Ordinary Lives officially ended and the ongoing work of the project – research, preservation, photography of envelopes – was absorbed into the day to day work of the Sutton Archives.

If you would like to see the latest information on this fascinating initiative, together with information on the history of Sutton (particularly the pubs). please visit the following site

The Past on Glass 




  1. Vivien Canning

    We, all descendants of our great grandparents who lived at Benfleet Hall, are very interested in everything that you have written about the Holmans. We wondered where you got the information from, and would you like any more. We have lots of it! And can also correct a few errors.

    1. Thanks for getting in touch, Vivien. Sutton Writers’ involvement in the Past on Glass project was to write fiction pieces inspired by the found images, but I’ll pass this message onto the Chair at the time of the project (it was a few years ago) and see if he knows anything or can help with your request.

    2. Bernard Jacobs

      The Past on Glass project is run by London Borough of Sutton. The Heritage Department has all the material. I am sure they would appreciate any help you can give them and can be contacted at the Civic Offices in Sutton.
      I hope this helps.

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