IT wasn’t that long ago that an essential item of holiday packing was a 35mm camera with all its bagged appendages.

Once back home the little plastic pots of exposed film were taken to somewhere like Springett’s, at Maldon’s 57 High Street, to be developed into prints or slides.

Herbert Springett started his photographic business there in the 1960s and it continued as a going concern under the Milton family until the 1980s.

Herbert was a master of monochrome and a very kind man – he lent me a camera for a primary school trip to Austria in the late Sixties.

Life became easier from the Nineties with the coming of digital photography and computer downloads, but nowadays most of us amateurs tend to rely on our mobile phones to take snaps.

That marked evolution has taken place over a relatively short period of time, but then “drawing with light” (as “photography” means in Greek) has only really existed in a sophisticated sense since the mid-19th century.

Although Aristotle described pinhole image formation as early as the 4th Century BC, it wasn’t until 1837 that Frenchman Louis Daguerre invented the first practical photographic process.

‘Daguerrotypes’, as they became known, were the first commercially produced pictures on silver-plated copper sheets and then, in this country, Fox Talbot produced paper-based photographs.

In 1854 came the ground-breaking ‘carte de visite’ – a thin paper photograph mounted on stiff card with the photographer’s details advertised on the reverse.

Along with the larger version ‘cabinet cards’ these became immensely popular and professional photographic studios sprang up across the country to profit from the new fad.

Here in Maldon there is evidence of commercial photography from at least the 1860s.

Maldon-born James Edwards branched out from his bakers and confectionary business and is also listed as a photographer in 1867.

He was based at 13 Market Hill – roughly where the Co-op Funeral Services building is today. Sadly James wasn’t to enjoy his photography for long as he died the following year, aged only 31.

However, we learn that wife Fanny Edwards (née Freeman) “secured the services of a competent artist in the profession carried on by her late husband” and the studio re-opened.

A picture of my great-grandfather, Frederick James Nunn (1868-1939), and great-aunt, Rose Amelia Nunn (1878-1896), as children has ‘F Edwards, Market Hill’, on the reverse.

The business appears to have continued until Fanny also then passed away in 1880 (aged 43).

At that point another photographer, Liverpudlian James Kevan, moved in to 13 Market Hill, specialising in ‘cartes de visite, outdoor and equestrian photography’.

His tenure was quite short lived and by 1891 he had moved back to Liverpool and was living there with his mother, Jane.

Walter Wren Gladwin then took up residence at 13. Gladwin was renowned for his photos of local events such as the inspection of the local volunteer regiment (G Company, 2nd Essex Volunteer Reserve) and of Sir Claude de Crespigny’s daring balloon launch from a paddock next to Maldon Gas Works.

Gladwin’s business initially went from strength to strength and at some point he relocated his ‘Glendale Studio’ to 8 Market Hill (now a private house).

Clearly quite a mixed character, Walter Gladwin became a Freemason in 1884 (initiated into the Blackwater Lodge).

He risked life and limb to take the very best pictures (like the time he stood in the rising current of the river to photograph a capsized ketch, the Ellen Maud), was once robbed by his apprentice, Thomas Harris, who received “six strokes with a birch rod” as a result, suffered a fire which destroyed many of his ‘paper portraits of prominent Maldonians’, successfully sued Henry Handley, a fisherman of North Street, for an unpaid bill, was fined for allowing his unmuzzled dog to run free in the High Street, travelled to New York and left an estate of £150 in liabilities and only £87 in assets.

John Rayne then moved in to the ‘Glendale Studio’ and was on site to capture the great High Street fire of 1892 which swept away most of the buildings between Coes and the Moot Hall, selling the pictures of the devastation at a shilling a time.

He lectured in photography and was renowned for his ‘portraiture, outdoor groups and yachts’.

Rayne was succeeded at number 8 by William Hazeltine Frost, “late manager to Messrs Russell & Sons, photographers to HM the King and Royal Family” and his studio continued right into the 1930s.

In addition to the activity out of 13 and 8 Market Hill, there were also rival photographers located at 114 High Street (now The Barber Shop).

Initially it was the business of William Cable Hazelton, haircutter and (from about 1871) photographer. (He also went on to add “general dealer, gardener and tobacconist” to his diverse portfolio!) He died in 1899 (aged 78), but later his shop would serve as a photographers again.

Cyril Leslie Osborn moved there from 29 Wantz Road in 1937. Cyril was a popular and well-known Maldon resident who I remember well and who only died in 1981. So there we have it – eight photographers making a living out of three locations over a period of 100 years or so.

Their legacy has got to be the splendid images that they captured – moments in sepia time from our town’s past and portraits of our long-gone predecessors, locals who would have been mightily impressed by the technology and art of modern-day photography.