Linga Longa Studios, Skegness
Thanks to former employee (and relative) Stan Brown, we can shed a little light on this Skegness walking picture firm. The Linga Longa Studios were sited at 1 Winthorpe Avenue on the Northern edge of the town. Close by the big caravan and holiday home parks and also the Derbyshire Miner’s Welfare camp it was often very busy with holiday-makers, and provided plenty of passing custom.
We assume (as his name comes first!) Arthur Sharpe teamed up with Harry Atherton, a director at Walfreds (who took walkies in Skegness during the Fifties in the town itself, see below) in this second venture which covered a specific area on the edge of town, sharing facilities. But it is possible the pair were both involved with Walfreds before.
The Sharpe family had a house on Algitha Street near the town centre, and works at the back on an access road called Prince George Street behind what was Woolworths, which could be accessed from their back garden. The firm did developing and printing here.
Arthur was Stan Brown’s Uncle, and so Stan was able to get work with them as a teenager in 1969. “We had two deliveries a day of processed pictures to the kiosks, and an early Saturday morning drop (at the kiosk) for Friday night pictures as in those days everyone came in or out on a Saturday.”
Stan mainly worked as a cameraman, using an Olympus Pen EE camera. This camera was launched as a halframe compact, which meant it took a negative half the size of a regular 35mm camera, so you could get 72 frames rather than the usual 36. Obviously the quality wasn’t as good, but Olympus figured that for most people wanting just ordinary prints it would be fine (just as manufacturers today have correctly surmised most people are happy with pictures off their mobile phone rather than a dedicated camera!). The Olympus was ideal for the Walking Pictures trade (and was widely used by Wrates in Skegness as well), though the resultant walkies are not technically as good as those taken before the War. Firms got round this by supplying smaller prints.
Stan used to cover the Miner’s Camp, Winthorpe Avenue and Ingoldmells, and they had kiosks at those locations, as well as at the Tower Gardens on the sea front. He was just 19 at the time and remembers the job as much for meeting plenty of girls as anything!
Sharpe Atherton walkies were half the size of postcard prints and apart from their original paper wallet, have no identification on them. The firm went into colour walkies as early as 1969. I assume they did black and white before that but have yet to see any. Stan recalls that the colour films were originally processed and printed by hand at the works in town. Arthur then took delivery of the first Kodak automated colour printing machine in the U.K., which suggests that the business was doing quite well (rivals Wrates were selling colour walkies by 1967.) With this machine Sharpe Atherton could now offer Print & Developing services for holiday-makers as well as chemists shops in the area. “I also remember my mother worked (at Walfreds)(?) and did the hand colouring of black and white prints in the ’50s.”
Arthur’s grandson Darren Sharpe says he was told the firm also invested in equipment to print photographs onto ceramic plates for souvenirs. He recalls props including a Shetland Pony and a monkey, plus Wombles suits and giant Chewing Gum packets (which I have also seen used at other walkie firms.)
I only have one Sharpe Atherton walkie which dates from the early 1970s (at the top of the page), but it would be interesting to hear from anyone with other examples.
Arthur began to spend more time in (and later moved to) Canada to be near his sons who had emigrated there. Member of Harry’s family still live in Skegness.
The Linga Longa name lives on, and the building is now a fish and chip restaurant of that name (established over 40 years according to one visitor), suggesting perhaps some family involvement at one time.
My thanks to Stan (who also later moved to Canada) for his help, and to Darren. The walkie below was taken by the firm and shows his other Grandparents.
You can find out more about Walfred’s on the site. The history and business links between them and Sharpe-Atherton need further investigation. Wrates, the town’s best known photographers and walkie firm, still have a works on Price George Street. Their history is covered on this site.