Something old, something new

To some extent, the first item shown here epitomizes what the website is all about. Below was a picture of the very first issue of the Burton Grammar School Magazine, ‘The Cygnet’.

Although old and tatty, there is enough remaining to allow a full restoration, completely faithful to the original, so that future generations can see it exactly as it would have been on its issue in 1919.

The first Cygnet, Spring Term 1919 – Issue 1 recovered just in time

… now fully restored to its original condition and preserved forever

It is a nice feeling to be able to preserve these things, in a non-degradable medium, for later generations to enjoy before they are lost forever.

Photographs of course, are a very important part of the website. The oldest featured are almost 130 years old and many are damaged. This example is probably the only surviving example of a photo taken in 1931 and has sustained fairly serious damage.

All is not lost however! This is one of countless examples of the type of restoration work that goes on constantly to make the website possible with the painstaking reconstruction of both buildings and people leaving a badly damaged photo looking as though it was taken very recently.

Photos that are over or under exposed or taken with fairly primitive equipment can be digitally corrected meaning that very often, the photos featured on the website are far superior to the original photographic image.

Skills accumulated during the preparation of this site has led to work in restoring important documents, diagrams, drawings and photographs which I am happy to undertake.



Behind the Scenes

A picture paints a thousand words“, and one of the aims of this website is to provide where possible, an archive of pictures that have been painstakingly restored to their original pristine condition. Many of the pictures I have managed to unearth however, show signs of being over fifty years old. I have had to work with paper distortion, coffee cup rings, scratches, creases and even writing across the face.

The 1968 intake group photo had a number of damaged areas. Graham Coleman’s face, for example, was badly scarred and yet looks perfect here. How?


Faces have the advantage of being symetrical. The undamaged side of the face therefore provided the perfect patch once cut out and horizontally inverted. After a small amount of careful rubbing out around the edge of the patch and a bit of smoothing, the face is as good as new. The rest of the scratch is covered with a simpler patch taken from the rest of the background, using a ‘cloud’ shape rather than a sharp rectangle because the human eye is remarkably good at detecting straight lines of repair. Finally, some filtering is applied to sharpen and clean the image and a hue is applied to give it a very faint, warm, cepia type effect. The whole process is done at exactly twice full size and reduced again on completion.

colour75.jpgIt is even possible to convert black and white photos into a colour one although it is a time consuming process. This example shows a brief extract of the same 1968 intake photo.

This is used very sparingly however, because a colourized picture can look a little artificial making it far less effective than the original monochrome.

In some cases, the original pictures are so poor that they can only provide a framework for the restored picture. In this picture of the original grammar school, still standing in Friar’s Walk, the original image from the BGS website has little hope of being restored because there is simply too little to work with.


Using the original as a template, texture is carefully added. The sky, for example, is cut out to reveal the sky placed underneath from a completely different picture. In the same way, some of the pictures on this website never even actually existed! They have been constructed from the best available photo source. In one instance for example, a master’s head has been stuck onto a different body because no suitable picture could be found.



Website Quality

Whilst I try to keep the picture quality of this website as high as possible, images are sometimes of lesser quality than I would like. I can assure that this is not through my being lax; it is because I sometimes have poor quality sources to work from.

  • Some sets of photos (from a particular photographer) are all printed on ‘canvas effect’ paper, which produces graining when scanned.
  • Some scans have been performed without disassembling the cardboard mounts producing a few millimeters gap which reduces quality.
  • Some original photos have not been particularly good (over/under exposed, poor depth of field).
  • Some images have been ‘over-cooked’ when being compressed by older compression techniques.

By way of example, this shows a staff group together with what I had to work with. The original image was skewed, scratched, under-exposed, cropped (you can see that as in a number of cases, the windows are my own construction and the floor has been ‘hand painted’.

I am producing the best I can, with particular consideration to making faces as clear as possible, and if ever I stumble across a superior source, I am always happy to start from scratch on a replacement.

If YOU have a better version of a picture that is already featured, I am still very happy to receive the best possible scan (or photo in the post).


Website by Kevin Gallagher