Although the centenary of the ending of the Great War has now passed, work to commemorate the Downside Old Gregorians who lost their lives in that conflict is ongoing with the preservation and digitisation of images of those killed.

Over the last few months, conservation work has been done on the images of those men which have hung in the school as a touching, and almost unique memorial. These images are, however, in a slightly sad state. Some have been bleached by the sun and others are starting to peel and crack.

Work to preserve these poignant photos is being undertaken by the Abbey’s Archive and Library team. First, the images are removed from the frames, which involved removing the old tapes and glue. After fully clearing all residue from the frames, the glass is cleaned.

Meanwhile, the library’s U3A volunteers are scanning and cataloguing the original images to create both a permanent digital record of the images of the OGs who died, and also a hard copy of the photos which is then placed on archival standard backing board and replaced back into the clean frames.

The copied image is then secured in the frame with archival picture framing tape and the whole frame is given one last wipe over. The original photographs are placed in special acid free archive photo wallets and then stored in archival storage boxes for preservation.

A special and unexpected find was that of a note from a mother, which had been secured to the original photo backing paper. The note was carefully removed and the text revealed the sad message.

‘A little snap shot of our darling boy taken during the summer of 1917. Perhaps you may care to keep this copy – it is my favourite little photograph. Those hands, the poor old hands I loved, bear the marks of toil as he had been making roads. He always made a rule of working with his men – even to burying his comrades in battle who had been lying out many days in no man’s land. I feel very proud, though very lonely.’ A Nash

This important conservation project will ensure that future generations of Downside pupils and the wider public will still be able to see the photos of those men who made the ultimate sacrifice for many years to come.

To read more about the archives and library click here. To find out more about the digitisation of our photographic archives click here.

Below are images showing a frame before and after cleaning and our brilliant U3A volunteers carrying out the digitisation process.