The rediscovered photographs of Louisa Kruckenberg

by Danielle Spargo, Record Assistant

Louisa Kruckenberg, a talented amateur photographer, captured images of rural life over a hundred years ago in the parish of Lower Dunsforth and surrounding area. After her death in 1958, her possessions were dispersed, including an album of her printed photographs and a suitcase full of glass plate negatives. Some were sold at auction, others remained locally in private hands. From a variety of sources, a number of Louisa’s photographs have subsequently made their way into the collections held here at the County Record Office.

Louisa was born on 22nd November 1885, the daughter of vicar Frederick Thomas Kruckenberg and Mary Sophia Kruckenberg. She skilfully documented farming life and the daily life of her father’s parishioners in Lower Dunsforth, near Boroughbridge, where her father was vicar from 1911 until 1923. She beautifully photographed the countryside, the people, events, and the farming community.

  1. Threshing machine, October 1920 [EF 467 DSC_0046 Box 11]
  2. Mrs Vollans and children with ducks, September 1915 [EF 467 DSC_0026 Box 3]
  3. Mr Chapman ploughing, April 1921 [EF 467 DSC_0066 Box 11]

There are many agricultural activities captured in her photographs, such as corn harvesting, potato picking and the hoeing of turnips. There are studies of cattle, sheep, pigs and a gaggle of geese, which belong to the Smiths of High Dunsforth. Among the parishioners, Louisa spent a lot of her time with the Church family at Oakroyd Farm in Lower Dunsforth. She documented every aspect of their harvest, including cutting the hay, scaling, staking and leading. Louisa turned out for the threshing, and even persuaded a group of workers to pose against the background of the steam thresher with their mugs of tea (see image above).

  1. Willie Morland, May 1923 [EF 467 DSC_0051 Box 13]
  2. Cobblers Shop, August 1922 [EF 467 DSC_0037 Box 12]
  3. Dorothy Morland, February 1923 [EF 467 DSC_0069 Box 13]
  4. Nativity Scene [EF 467 DSC_0015 Box 1]

From the photographs, it is clear that Louisa had a wonderful relationship with the people of the parish. They allowed her a window into their world to photograph many of the intimate and public events which took place in the area, from weddings to children’s nativities. Louisa took group photographs of school children, families, wedding parties, farmers, shoemakers and atmospheric individual portraits.

  1. Church and school in Dunsforth in Winter [EF 467 DSC_0017 Box 17]
  2. Interior of church in Dunsforth [EF 467 DSC_0004 Box 17]
  3. Exterior of the School building [EF 467 DSC_0003 Box 17]

It was not just the people of Lower Dunsforth and the surrounding areas that were the subjects of her photographs. Louisa took many photographs of the village of Lower Dunsforth, its buildings and landscapes through all seasons. There are pictures of the village street in spring and summer, the church, and the school in winter under a blanket of snow. The vicarage, the school, the village from different viewpoints and the church, both inside and out, have all been documented.

  1. Child on bicycle at Whixley, October 1920 [EF 467 DSC_0018 Box 20]
  2. School Children, Dunsforth, 1915 [EF 467 DSC_0016 Box 15]
  3. October 1920 [EF 467 DSC_0024 Box 20]

There is striking mixture of formal and informal pictures, which may be a deliberate effect sought by Louisa. She carefully recorded the exposure times of her photography of various subjects, for example “schoolchildren: three and half minutes“. Her ability to persuade children to be still for that length of time suggests some force of personality which, in later life, she was to deploy to equally good measure as a teacher at the Ripon Cathedral Girls’ Sunday School. Louisa did not marry and stayed at home, caring for her father.

  1. Wedding party [EF 467 DSC_0003 Box 1]
  2. Wedding cake [EF 467 DSC_0008 Box 1]
  3. Bride and groom [EF 467 DSC_0010 Box 4]

Louisa’s photographs provide a wonderful insight into rural life at the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately, Louisa seems to have abandoned photography later in life, unless a further collection of her photographs is hiding somewhere waiting to be found…

Further information:

Boroughbridge and District Historical Society newsletter, Easter 2021 (opens pdf)

Kruckenberg family history webpage

Malcolm Barker ‘Miss Kruckenberg, An Edwardian Photographer Rediscovered’ [NYCRO CRONT 2694]

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