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History & CommunityLocal heritage in and around the Vale

Local heritage in and around the Vale

It is now 21 years since the late Ron Frampton’s first association with this magazine. And with the recent closure of Dillington House in Somerset where he lectured for many years and the opening of an exhibition of his work in Axminster, it seems a good time to highlight his enormous contribution to the local area.
In 2002 Ron curated his second exhibition at the Town Mill in Lyme Regis. It featured the work of 40 West Country photographers and was held in association with The Royal Photographic Society. The exhibition included powerful black and white images all hand printed by the photographers. The work depicted the beauty of Dorset, Somerset and Devon and included seascapes, Dorset Hill Forts, the Somerset Levels as well as churches, chapels and cathedrals, local crafts people, farmers and country folk.
Our cover in that particular issue was a beautiful photograph, The Pilgrim, taken by Somerset based photographer Justin Orwin. Thus began a long association with The Marshwood Vale Magazine that only ended with Ron’s passing in 2019.
Writing in this magazine in 2019, Ron’s son Magnus described him as a ‘thoroughly local man’. Ron was born in Courshay Cottage, on the edge of Hawkchurch in 1940 and managed to live within 6 miles of his place of birth all his life. He rarely left the area: living in Holdich, Tatworth, Thorncombe, and Churchill.
Ron’s mother, Dorothy Frampton (née Churchill) was a professional cook, his father Arthur was a chauffeur and gardener. Fascinated by his family’s social background and upbringing Ron began to research these family histories in his late teens, and soon developed an interest and skill in eliciting valuable personal life stories from family, friends, and local people.
Initially a motor engineer Ron became an environmentalist, ‘in the broad sense of the term: geographical, natural, social, and cultural’ according to Magnus. However, he soon became involved with Friends of the Earth; organising campaigns and coordinating media coverage. He photographed demonstrations on a variety of social, political, peace, and environmental issues. This led him to develop a passion for photography, so he retrained as a photography teacher and lectured in locations such as Symondsbury College and latterly Dillington House. He went on to become a Royal Photographic Society Fellowship assessor winning the Fenton Medal for outstanding contribution to the work of The Royal Photographic Society in 2003.
Over the many years that he worked with The Marshwood Vale Magazine, Ron Frampton coordinated dozens of articles that highlighted local people and the structure and architecture of West Country society.
Following his death in 2019 friends and former students looked to find a home for his archive, not only including his and his students’ photographic work but also his lobbying for environmental groups. His archive mainly covers the three counties of Devon, Dorset and Somerset meaning there was no natural place in a museum or archive that would have the same collecting area. Instead of risking the collection being split up, Axminster Heritage Centre agreed to take it all as Ron had been born near Axminster and had lived most of his life in the area.
The archive is a unique collection of black and white photographs spanning from the early 1980s until the 2010s looking at the landscape of the area, local residents and buildings, at a time of great change. It is hoped that it will become one of Britain’s most significant collections of photographs of an area showing the change in the rural landscape at the transition from the 20th to 21st century.
The exhibition looks at a sample of his work and also allows the Heritage Centre to explain their plans for the collection and the creation of their Archive Room at the Centre which will be available for public use by appointment later in 2024.
The Exhibition is open Tuesdays and Thursday 10-4, and Saturdays 10-1 between January 20th and March 30th, and 10-1 Monday to Friday and Saturday 10-1 from April 1st. Entry to Museum is £4 for adults, 16 and under are free.
Ron Frampton, A Life in Photographs will be open at The Axminster Heritage Centre from January 20th to April 27th 2024.

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