After the death of his grandmother in February of this year, Barney Britton found an unexpected treasure while cleaning out her attic: a wooden box filled with dozens of 35mm slides documenting his grandparents’ honeymoon trip in 1939. Although Britton’s mother remembered seeing the photos as a child, they were long presumed to be lost after several decades and multiple house moves. To Britton’s delight, most of the slides were remarkably well-preserved even after nearly 75 years of storage. Many of the photos were shot using Agfacolor film–a novelty at the time–providing a rare and exceptional look at England in color in the month preceding the outbreak of World War II.
Britton’s grandparents, Margaret and Denys Gardiner, were married in London in April 1939, but they waited until August to embark on a wild road trip across the country for their honeymoon. Accompanying them were their cat Edgar and their cousin Eldred, an accomplished photographer. Thanks to Eldred’s thorough documentation of the trip, that important time in history was recorded in beautiful images. In the vibrant photos, we see the couple journeying across England in their Morris Eight Convertible, exploring different towns, camping in the countryside, crossing paths with horses, and fully enjoying life as newlyweds. Through these incredible images, we can see how places have changed over time, as we note the differences between specific locations then and now.
The Gardiners, Eldred, and Edgar returned to London at the end of August of 1939. A few days later, on September 3, France and England declared war on Germany and the catastrophic events of World War II began. Looking at these idyllic photos of the calm and quiet of England right before the outbreak of WWII, it’s mind-boggling to think of the life-changing events that would alter history forever. Luckily, the couple we see here survived. Denys, who was unable to enlist because he had suffered from tuberculosis as a child, remained in England as part of the Home Guard and later died at the age of 79 in 1995. Margaret, who served as a nurse during the war, passed away at the age of 100. Eldred the photographer died in 1940 from tuberculosis, but thanks to the preservation of his remarkable work, Britton says we’re offered “a glimpse into a time–and a place–long vanished.”