England at war and at play: John Topham photographs feature in new exhibition

With her hand planted firmly on her hip, a woman dressed in a cardigan and a long, flowing skirt wakes East London dockers with a peashooter.

The famous image, taken in Limehouse in 1927, shows the then well-known Mrs Mary Smith carrying out her work as a knocker upper: someone who earned money waking up industrial workers so they got to their shifts on time.  

The photograph of the woman performing the long-vanished job was the first one licensed by British photographer John Topham and its success prompted him to give up his job as a policeman and spend the rest of his life taking pictures. 

The image is one of many currently featuring in an exhibition of the photographer’s work at the Lucy Bell Fine Art Gallery in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex. The show runs until June 26. 

One of the most famous images of the Second World War – of hop pickers’ children taking shelter in a trench as German and British planes fight overhead during the Battle of Britain in 1940 – is also on display. 

The eclectic collection also includes an image of a British soldier wearing a woman’s bonnet while sewing in 1940. 

A fourth photo in the set shows a small boy with his hands covered in dirt and his shirt falling to pieces as he plays while sitting inside a car tyre.  Viewers can see more of the images online at the Top Foto archive.  

Topham, who died in 1991, was particularly noted for his images of the 1939-1945 war. He amassed more than 121,000 negatives during his long career. 

With her hand planted firmly on her hip, a woman dressed in a cardigan and a long, flowing skirt wakes East London dockers with a peashooter. The famous image, taken by John Topham in Limehouse in 1927, shows the then well-known Mrs Mary Smith carrying out her work as a knocker upper: someone who earned money waking up industrial workers so they got to their shifts on time

The image is one of many currently featuring in an exhibition of the photographer's work at the Lucy Bell Fine Art Gallery in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex. The show runs until July 17. One of the most famous images of the Second World War - of hop pickers' children taking shelter in a trench as German and British planes fight overhead during the Battle of Britain in 1940 - is also on display

The image is one of many currently featuring in an exhibition of the photographer’s work at the Lucy Bell Fine Art Gallery in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex. The show runs until July 17. One of the most famous images of the Second World War – of hop pickers’ children taking shelter in a trench as German and British planes fight overhead during the Battle of Britain in 1940 – is also on display

A third photo in the set shows a small boy with his hands covered in dirt and his shirt falling to pieces as he plays while sitting inside a car tyre

A third photo in the set shows a small boy with his hands covered in dirt and his shirt falling to pieces as he plays while sitting inside a car tyre

The eclectic collection includes an image of a British soldier wearing a woman's bonnet while sewing in 1940

The eclectic collection includes an image of a British soldier wearing a woman’s bonnet while sewing in 1940 

Topham, who died in 1991, was particularly noted for his images of the 1939-1945 war. He amassed more than 121,000 negatives during his long career. Above: Topham takes a photo as a tame jackdaw sits on his camera in July 1948

Topham, who died in 1991, was particularly noted for his images of the 1939-1945 war. He amassed more than 121,000 negatives during his long career. Above: Topham takes a photo as a tame jackdaw sits on his camera in July 1948

This image, taken in 1939, shows the difficult conditions which photographers had to work in during the Second World War. The an above is seen taking a photograph whilst wearing a gas mask to defend against Nazi attacks from the air

This image, taken in 1939, shows the difficult conditions which photographers had to work in during the Second World War. The an above is seen taking a photograph whilst wearing a gas mask to defend against Nazi attacks from the air

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