From Garden Sheds to Hairdressers Salons

Sydney Newton remained in photography for the rest of his life and the business stayed in the King Street shop until around 1950. He was married at 39, and at the age of 45, he became a father for the first and the only time. For many years, he lived on Victoria Park Road in Leicester in a house that he named FINMERE after one of the stations on the London Extension. After selling the King Street shop, he moved to a smaller house at Branting Hill in Groby before moving in with his son, with whom he shared his name. He died in 1960, at Beverley, East Yorkshire, having lived almost his entire life in and around Leicester. He was 85 years old.

Water colour by S. W. A. Newton of a 4-4-0 Great Central locomotive at Chesterfield See Details

Throughout Newton's life, the glass negatives from the construction of the London Extension were something of a Holy Grail amongst railway historians, and it was not until the late 1950's that their whereabouts were re-discovered. It was at that time that John Daniel, a member of Leicester Museums staff, had been invited for tea at Branting Hill by Newton, as the old man had something to show him that he might find of interest. After tea, Newton took John out to his rickety wooden garden shed in the garden and opened the door. Inside, stacked from floor to ceiling, were hundreds of carefully labelled cardboard boxes containing glass plate negatives. Newton said that if the museum did not want them, then they would have to go to the tip as he was moving away. It did not take long for John Daniel to realise what he was looking at, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, the S. W. A. Newton collection is divided into two sections. The images of the railway's construction, featuring the infrastructure, locomotives, machinery and navvies, are in the care of the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland, whilst the social history plates that capture village life around the railway are housed at the English Heritage: National Monuments Record in Swindon. Together the two collections total around 5000 images. As for the shop at 17 King Street, it is now in use as a hairdresser's salon. How things change!

Hand drawn map of the Marylebone district, as drawn by S. W. A. Newton See Details

A memorable image from the Newton Collection of a Robinson Class O4, 2-8-0 locomotive, seen here after something of a catastrophe on the Leicester viaduct at Northgates. The loco, driven by Bertram Duckworth, had been at the head of a goods train when it collided with a light engine in the fog, forcing the 2-8-0 through the viaduct's brick parapet and into the back garden of a local anglers, Wadsworth & Son. Both Mr Duckworth and his fireman, John Stocks, escaped serious injury, as did the driver and fireman of the light engine, Percy Banyard and Dennis Moore. See Details

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