Throwback Thursday: a snowy day in Rye Foreign, 1890

PUBLISHED: 16:19 19 November 2020 | UPDATED: 17:04 19 November 2020

A snowy scene in Rye Foreign, 1890. Photo: Courtesy of The Keep

A snowy scene in Rye Foreign, 1890. Photo: Courtesy of The Keep


This photograph depicts a couple on their way to the well, a task people had been doing for centuries but which would soon die out

On a beautiful winter’s morning in 1890, a couple have stopped to have their photograph taken in the tiny Sussex village of Rye Foreign. The photograph has that still quality associated with a recent snowfall, but we can see that horses, carts and walkers have already been in the lane. Perhaps this couple are on their way to the milking shed or well. He carries a greatcoat and spade to dig out the snow and she carries the pails. Hopefully, they’re empty! Perhaps they’ll change roles for the journey home.

We think the photographer is George Woods (1853-1934), a skilled amateur photographer who moved to Hastings in the late 1880s. Woods focused on working people, venturing into the surrounding rural areas to record life before mechanisation transformed farming methods and traditions.

Woods isn’t interested in the couple as people. He’s recording a task which has lasted for centuries, but which is now possibly nearing its end. The three onlookers, a father and his two sons, are keeping out of the way in the doorway of their cottage. A good move, as any nearer to the viewer and they would certainly have ruined the timelessness of the image.

About The KeepThe Keep is an archive centre open to anyone. Our three partners are the East Sussex Record Office, Brighton and Hove City Council, and the University of Sussex. We are home to their historic documents and it is our job to care for them and help the public access them. We provide free public access Tuesdays to Saturdays and have a variety of events and workshops.

The image on this page is reference ACC 12375/394

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