Sunny Snaps

sunny snaps walking photograph south coast worthing 1930s

Sunny Snaps operated in a number of different locations taking walking pictures. Like Spotlight Photos, who operated all over the UK, the firm is a bit of a mystery. It is hard to know if they were a franchise operation or one business which opened a number of different towns or suburbs on the south coast, with perhaps a contract with a local processing lab.
All Sunny Snaps cards are postcard size and very distinctive, due to an illustrated panel at the bottom (or side), unique the the company. This featured the Sunny Snaps name, often the year the photograph was taken, the location (though many just say “South Coast”) and a little pen and ink sketch, usually with a London landmark and a seaside image; deckchairs, seagulls and the like. There is also space for the hand-written negative reference number.
A lot of the Sunny Snaps cards are very good technically too (“The best all British walking picture postcard” according to their envelopes!) and this, together with the nostalgic look of the designs, makes them popular with collectors (and may have inspired the title of Bradford Photography Museum’s – RIP – exhibition of beach photography in 2008).

Sunny Snaps Bognor Regis

The oldest dated card I have seen is from 1931, the latest 1949. This suggests they set up business as the walking picture craze really took off, but struggled to carry on (as did other walking picture firms) once the war began. In 1939 the walkies were priced at just 7d each, which was lower than many similar firms. Perhaps this contributed to their demise.  There is mention of the firm being struck of the register of companies in August 1957 which normally happens when people retire and wish to formally end a business. The two post-WW2 Sunny Snaps I have seen were by a photographer working in Lewisham and one is of his own wife, but these are the only later cards I have ever seen.
In terms of location, I’ve seen Sunny Snaps cards taken on the south coast in Worthing (as early as 1931), Littlehampton (the oldest is 1933 – both places are close to one another), Bognor Regis (as early as 1934, where cards could be collected at Fuller’s newsagents on Lansdowne Place, see the envelope above – though the street seems to no longer exist), and Shoreham in 1936. Further afield, examples from Hunstanton, and Lowestoft survive. They also operated in London (the oldest so far is 1932). If you know of any more do get in touch. They may have had a London headquarters, possibly in Houslow (another walkie from London can be seen on the site, the street as yet not identified).

sunny snaps walking photograph south coast worthing london littlehampton 1930s
Amongst the Worthing cards, several show the same Sunny Snaps shop in the background (see the 1936 and 1936 cards above), which was at the sea-side end of South Street in Pavillion Parade, a large shopping block (with apartments above) built probably in the 1920s. South Road emerged opposite Worthing Pier, so the shop – which was on the corner of an arcade – was easy for everyone to find. It was run by Somers Tobacconist. I do not know if the shop had a processing operation on site or the films were taken elsewhere for developing and printing, but the shop also sold films and offered a developing service for customers’ own snaps.
By positioning themselves so close to the shop, cameramen would have been able to tell customers where to go to see the photographs later in the day. Sunny Snaps cameramen also operated elsewhere in Worthing including Chapel Street and other spots yet to be identified.
The 1931 Worthing image above for example shows the corner of a Kodak sign top right, so this may be another Sunny Snaps outlet. As for the Worthing Sunny Snaps shop, in recent years the sign for the Arcade entrance has been removed, but otherwise the scene is very recognisable in this colour shot taken from roughly the same position over seventy years later.

former sunny snaps shop walking photograph south coast worthing 1930s

The London locations are proving very hard to identify but seem to be in different suburbs. I’ve no idea where the 1935 card above taken in London was snapped, though it is almost like a clandestine spy photograph. There is a large park across the road so maybe someone can work out where it is.  Two Sunny Snaps taken on Park Parade in Harlesden have been identified, taken in 1934 and 1937. These show schoolboys from Willesden County Grammer School, who bought the prints. A Sunny Snaps taken near Shepherd’s Bush tube station is also posted on the site.  Ladbroke Grove has been identified as another site where Sunny Snaps worked in 1935 and we’ve also seen one taken on Lewisham High Street and another near Leicester Square tube station, which would be the most central location to date. Another taken on Blackheath has also come to light. The Lewisham and Blackheath images are just post-WW2, but may have been by an independent operator using the old Sunny Snaps system.

Bognor Regis sunny snaps 1934.jpg

The above is another very typical Sunny Snaps image, this time from Bognor Regis.  If as is beginning to seem likely, negative numbers were kept sequentially this indicates over 15,000 walkies taken that year so far.

There are also Sunny Snaps which people have sent me taken in Shoreham by The Sea on the site, and at Littlehampton.  One was found in the collection of Maurice Wilkinson which may be from Worthing, and another was taken on Worthing seafront as well.

Lastly a firm operating as Sunny Snaps from a kiosk on Colwyn Bay pier was probably not related, but just used the same name. They supplied much smaller prints stamped only on the back.

My thanks to Paul Godfrey, Brett Payne and Colin Harding for the loan of images, others are from our own collection. If you have any cards by this firm or know more about the history do get in touch.

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30 responses

  1. Mark Kent

    Brilliant history and information. I have few photos by Sunny Snaps of my relatives (including my grandfather, great grandafther and my great great Uncle) taking the walk with Somers Tabacconist clearly in the background. I wonder if Sunny Snaps kept all the photos they took – I wonder where they would be now.

    June 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    • simon robinson

      It seems talking to people who worked in the trade that photos were often only kept for a couple of weeks sometimes, then thrown away. That said, it’s possible some firms kept material for a season in the earlier days. The only example I know of anything surviving was a firm in New York, where 2 million negatives were found after they closed down.

      July 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm

  2. We have a photograph of my grandfather dated 1935 in London and my cousins seem to think it was taken in the Harrow Rd. Would love to post the picture but not sure how to!!

    August 9, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    • simon robinson

      Michelle, easiest way is to send me a scan via email to admin@easyontheeye.net and we can post. Include some details of who is on the photo. Simon

      August 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm

  3. Lin Stewart

    Can we still send scans of Sunny Snaps to the above email?

    January 14, 2013 at 10:38 am

    • simon robinson

      Yes, I’m still happy to see new photographs. Do drop me an email to get details of the best size to scan them at. Simon

      April 3, 2013 at 7:16 pm

  4. LESLEY CHAMBERLAIN

    I HAVE A 1938 SUMMER SNAPS PHOTO OF MOTHER AGED 5

    July 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm

  5. Ann Rush

    I have just been sent a Sunny Snap of my Nan which reminded me that I also had one of my Dad too. Both were taken in Canning Town London probably just prior to WW II. They both have a serial number. Is there a record of these numbers anywhere?

    October 12, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    • simon robinson

      There are no surviving records of these numbers Ann, they were only kept for a season then usually thrown away. If you were able to scan the cards for me or let me borrow them, I might be able to help date them more closely.

      November 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      • Lesley Chamberlain

        Can any give me a clue to were this is Thanks Lesley

        On Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 7:14 PM, Go Home On A Postcard wrote:

        > simon robinson commented: “There are no surviving records of these > numbers Ann, they were only kept for a season then usually thrown away. If > you were able to scan the cards for me or let me borrow them, I might be > able to help date them more closely.” >

        November 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm

  6. Andrew Gordon

    Hi Simon, I have found a Sunny Snaps Card in my grandfather’s Album. Unlike these it was a beach shot dated 1937 and hand coloured – but whether by Sunny Snaps or later by one of the family, I don’t know.

    July 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    • simon robinson

      Hi Andrew, this sounds interesting. Any chance of seeing the postcard? I have a few of the hand-coloured ones but it’s always hard to tell if ordered at the time or done at home – you could buy kits of special paints to do this.

      July 18, 2014 at 6:57 am

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  8. vincent Charlton

    I have one Sunny Snaps in my collection, a very damaged, cut card that has V.E DAY printed at the bottom.

    October 20, 2015 at 7:58 am

    • simon robinson

      That sounds really interesting. I can see why a photographer might think of the VE day celebrations as an opportunity for a souvenir postcard print, but from the film I have seen of the day it was so chaotic, you do wonder how many people could manage to actually go and buy their card!

      October 30, 2015 at 6:44 pm

  9. colin skilton

    Many Thanks Indeed. My Hobby is restoring old photographs and l have a large batch at the moment from my own family. Among them was a Sunny Snaps photo dated 1939 of my Great Aunt Anne. It’s nice to be able to find the location and add that to the information about both the company that took the photo and once restored my picture will be preserved for a s long as we carry on using computers and photographs!

    January 6, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    • Quite by chance I happened to write a comment just below yours and noticed your surname. It isn’t very common as far as I know, and there are Skiltons in my family. My aunt Lily Bale married Fred Skilton in 1930, they were both Londoners.

      June 8, 2016 at 12:43 pm

  10. This website is absolutely fascinating! Many thanks to whoever started it and to those who contribute. I’ve taken the liberty of sharing some of the pics and info with members of “Bygone Littlehampton” quoting my source.

    June 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    • simon robinson

      Thanks for the link Jane, I’d be happy to add scans of any Sunny Snaps to the project.

      June 24, 2016 at 8:12 am

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  16. David Montgomery

    Hello. I have a 1936 Sunny Snaps photo of my relatives taken at Littlehampton that I’d be happy to email to this site.

    January 27, 2018 at 7:42 am

    • simon robinson

      Be great to see it David, for details of how to scan see the menu on the front page header, or if you want I can scan and return.

      March 28, 2018 at 8:21 am

  17. Gary

    Hi S
    I too have a Sunny Snap of my partners father in “walking mode” and she would love to know where it was taken
    We are certain it was in London.. But after trolling the internet I have reached a blank although I am now more informed about these “walking pictures”
    Fascinating stuff
    Regards
    G.

    October 4, 2018 at 6:03 am

    • simon robinson

      If you can send me a scan I will run it past my own examples and see if it matches anything. Simon

      October 5, 2018 at 6:29 pm

  18. John Thompson

    Hi Simon, I have 2 Sunny Snaps in my possession that were left in my families trust.
    One is 1938 whereby you hav indicated Worthing Street and the tobacconist in the background.

    The other is 1937, and no idea where this one is.

    Would you mind if I send this one to you for your thoughts.

    John

    October 15, 2018 at 5:59 am

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