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Row over access and copyright of more than 1,000 historic Norfolk and Suffolk photographs

PUBLISHED: 16:50 21 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:50 21 February 2019

Members of the Holt-Wilson family stand across the water from Regrave Hall in a photograph taken by CS Alger in the 1860s. PHOTO: Holt-Wilson family

Members of the Holt-Wilson family stand across the water from Regrave Hall in a photograph taken by CS Alger in the 1860s. PHOTO: Holt-Wilson family

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History enthusiasts have expressed frustration at the copyright status of a large collection of Victorian photographs which they believe should be fully accessible.

The Cleer Alger Photographic Collection, comprised of more than 1,000 snaps of Norfolk and Suffolk landscapes and people, is currently owned by the Cleer Alger Trust.

Its photographs are available either as reference only photocopies at libraries, on the Picture Norfolk website, or for a reproduction fee of £10 to be paid to the trust.

However, Diss history enthusiasts were angered in January when it was found the Charity Commission had de-registered the trust for inactivity in 2013, yet the collection seemed to remain under its ownership.

Paul Womack, a computer programmer from Diss, said: “Given the joy and interest that people garner from the odd local Victorian postcard that is discussed, it seems wrong that around 1,500 unique local images are being locked away.”

But Cleer Alger Trust member Stephen Govier said there is still a trust, and that Diss has “had its chance”.

He said: “We are no longer a charitable trust as the charity commissioners reorganised small charities with a small income.

“The glass plate collection belongs to the remaining three trustees with the co-operation of Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils. Legally no one else can obtain ownership as we established a new constitution in 2018.

“The collection has reproduced images from the original plates establishing a new copyright. The Sutcliffe Collection have done the same.”

Cleer Alger and his son of the same name were professional photographers based in Diss in the second half of the 19th century.

The photographs were discovered in the mid-20th century in a Diss attic. By 1989 the Cleer Alger Trust was formed to preserve the collection and educate the public, while the originals went to the Suffolk Records Office.

Mr Govier said the trust has not received written complaints and has co-operated with a number of Diss projects, adding: “If we allowed the collection to be used willy nilly without a reproduction fee, this would be foolish.

“I and the other trustees are not prepared to discuss any change in ownership and the location of the collection.”

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