The changing landscape of Barking and Dagenham

Egbert Smart photoThis substantial and important collection comprises over sixteen thousand photographic negatives, together with related negative registers and contact print albums, created by Egbert E. Smart, who was the Borough Photographer from 1951 until his retirement in 1972.

The photographs show local buildings, streets and people, as well as all the different services provided by the council from local elections, welfare of the elderly, housing schemes, refuse collection to the celebratory events such as the Dagenham Town Show. Mr Smart took these photographs with a view to create an historic record of the changing landscape of Barking and Dagenham.

Barking and Dagenham Archives and Local Studies Centre was awarded funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to catalogue, digitalise and make available the photographic negatives taken by Mr Smart from 1965 to 1972 as part of the ‘Barking and Dagenham: Fifty Years a Borough’ Project in January 2015.

  • Egbert E. Smart Collection

    Object number



    1951 – 1977




    Subject matter of the collection reflects on various aspects of borough life; resident housing, annual town show events and Borough functionality from 1951-1977. Geographically Dagenham is predominantly recorded, the later period (post-1965) Barking [town centre] is also featured. The collection consists of six volumes of logbooks; twenty-three volumes of contact albums, containing contact photographs with corresponding negative number; over 16,000 negatives where produced, of which a small proportion of prints were reproduced.


    Egbert E. Smart was born 19 April 1907. In 1918, he won a scholarship to St. Olave's Grammar School, London. He went on to attend University College School of Librarianship between 1925 and 1928, where he received the Sir John McAllister Medal for Best Student. From 1928 to 1931 he worked at the Medical Society Library. In 1941, Mr Smart began work on a temporary basis for the Dagenham Public Library Service, due to staffing crisis occasioned by the Second World War, and having been deferred from wartime service due to medical reasons. He became a Fellow of the Library Association, and was put in charge of Wantz Library, then a new branch in 1944. He transferred to Rectory Library in 1960, where he remained until his retirement in 1972. The Dagenham Branch Libraries so pioneering that they were regarding each as cultural centres. In addition, Mr Smart was the local contact for the Rectory Music Circle and Fanshawe Film Society. Mr Smart's interest and talent in film and photography lead to the him becoming Dagenham Borough's Photographer in August 1951, for which he was paid an additional honorarium of £40 per annum. His role was to snap every aspect of life in the the Borough's, including the people, their work, and social activities. Various Dagenham Borough Council departments (predominantly the Housing Department, Engineering Department, and Library Service) requested the services of Mr Smart, on the understanding that developing and processing was carried out by professional photographers (Vincent Ltd, Ilford), and that requests for his services were made in writing to John Gerard O'Leary, the Chief Librarian. Smart also took photographs of Dagenham views to create an historic record of the changing landscape. As a consequence, thousands of photographs were taken that otherwise could not have been afforded. Egbert E. Smart died in 1999.

    Conditions governing reproduction

    LBBD Copyright. Heritage Services' copying/reproduction conditions apply.


    Large number of prints are represented in the Strawboard Collection (BD4)

    Looking for records

    This material can be accessed by appointment in our reading room, which is situated in the Visitor’s Centre at Valence House Museum. To make an appointment please email: or telephone 020 8227 2033

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    Start date1951
    End date1977