Fears over 60,000 photo archive of Exeter history

Peter Thomas examines negative
Image caption Peter Thomas fears his collection of 60,000 historic images of Exeter may have to be split up

An "irreplaceable" photographic record of Exeter is in danger of being broken up unless it can be preserved and found a new home, says its owner.

Author and photographer Peter Thomas, 66, owns 60,000 images, some of them dating back more than 100 years.

He is hoping a former bus station in the city could be used to house the collection.

The city council said it advised Mr Thomas to reach an agreement with the site's developer and owner.

The archive, which includes 42,000 negatives, needs to be digitised to save it for posterity, said Mr Thomas who has spent nearly 40 years putting it together.

He believes a purpose-built home for the collection would become a major tourist attraction.

Image copyright PETER THOMAS
Image caption An unusual visitor passing through the city

"The most important thing about an archive like this is that the public must have an opportunity to see it," he said. "There's no point having them tucked away."

The collection includes images of Exeter being bombed during World War Two and of King George VI and the Queen Mother, the Duke and Duchess of Clarence, on honeymoon in 1923.

Image copyright PETER THOMAS
Image caption Exeter High Street around the time horses were giving way to cars as a favoured form of transport

Mr Thomas has proposed to the council and property developers that a former bus station in the city centre could be developed into a tourist centre which could house the collection.

He added: "There might come a time when I would have to make a decision, a sad one, when I might have to split the collection up and sell it bit by bit. A huge loss for Exeter."

A city council spokesman said they were aware of the outline proposal but "it was made clear to Peter that if the attraction was to form part of the bus and coach station redevelopment he would have to reach agreement with the property developer and owner".

Image copyright PETER THOMAS
Image caption The Duke and Duchess of Clarence on honeymoon in 1923 at the Bickton Estate as guests of Lord Clinton
Image copyright Peter Thomas
Image caption Residents skate on the River Ex during a particularly cold winter around the turn of the 20th century

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