Lock-down illustrated: isolation snapshots enter Historic England archive

Amanda Nicholls June 2, 2020
Lock-down illustrated: isolation snapshots enter Historic England archive

Public photography project by Historic England will provide learning resource for future generations

Historic England has revealed the 100 images taken by the public that have made it into its archive as part of the Picturing Lockdown Collection, now freely accessible online.

Richard Allman: Lock-down protest, Milton Keynes. “Trying to make the most of a strange situation and putting a smile on the faces of friends and family”

The selection process followed a national week-long call-out in which people were asked to share images that documented their experience of seven days in lock-down from 29 April to 5 May. The move resulted in almost 3,000 submissions. 

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Jin Tong: Annual scout promise renewal on St George’s Day, Sutton. “My kids have to do their annual St George’s Day promise renewal online, which normally happens outdoors. It’s one of the most important events for scouts across England”
Sarah Everett: Child playing, Colchester. “Finding new and safe ways to play when you can’t visit the park or your friends. Chalk art and hopscotch!”


The final collection of 200 images consists of public submissions alongside more than 50 newly commissioned works by ten contemporary artists. The remainder are from Historic England photographers.

Steven Murray: Washing the shopping, Chesterfield. “Read somewhere that soapy water kills the virus so decided to wash the fresh food”

It’s the first time the public has been asked to capture photographs for the archive since the Second World War.

Hannah Slater: Strength, Uckfield, East Sussex. “Working more shifts, longer shifts, more emotionally draining shifts than ever before. Never have I been prouder to do what I do or felt closer to my green family. We all just keep going. Even when it feels like we are fighting a losing battle”
Samantha Toolsie: Leeds train station cleaner, Yorkshire. “A woman cleans in Leeds train station, a now empty public space, meticulously and taking pride in her duties. Normally overlooked or barely noticeable, her presence now fills the concourse in what is usually the rush hour at 9am”
Shaun Higginbotham: Hug of hope, Derby. “My wife, on the right, just before going in the covid-19 ICU ward at Royal Derby Hospital. Unbelievably brave. So proud of her”

The unique responses have formed a visual point of reference in the Historic England Archive – the nation’s library of records for England’s historic buildings, archaeology and social history. They will help shape what we remember about this time.

Peter Crush: Masako sewing masks, Reading. “Preparing to spread our wings”

Images sent in featured a variety of ‘stay at home’ messages through street art, on public buildings and in handmade signs in windows.

Lisa Malyon: I’m bored, Bristol. ”I have been setting a 5.45am alarm to go on early morning walks on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week to ensure I keep social distancing, documenting them with my camera phone. This was taken on a Wednesday urban walk and succeeds in being humorous despite the negative connotation”

The concept of emptiness featured strongly, especially through imagery of deserted high streets, shops, piers and playgrounds. The frustrations and loneliness of social distancing also came across.

Joanna Nightingale-Slade: Urban lock-down play-date, West Norwood. “We have made the most of our small outdoor space for the children during lock-down. These two have been very good friends since they were babies so they’re so lucky they can have play-dates at a safe distance and stay in touch during this time’

Meanwhile, moments of connection were captured – from children playing at a safe distance to neighbours chatting in a pharmacy queue.

Linda Wickens: Safe food delivery for over-70s, Merseyside. “Biggest problem for over-70s – getting food! Avoiding supermarkets and people not keeping a safe distance or being unable to get delivery slots or getting someone to buy food and deliver at a safe distance was a huge worry”
Jill Ingle: Lock-down pie, Sheffield. “I rekindled my love of baking”

Rebecca Barrett, of Historic England, said: “The fascinating response to our call-out sheds light on our collective and individual experiences of lock-down and provides a snapshot into this unusual time that will be accessible for future generations to see and learn from.”

Jody Cliffe: Climbing the walls, Sheffield. “As someone who explores in the Peak District a lot of the time as an artist, photographer or climber, I am missing the adventure”
Damien Hewetson: The masked man, central London. “I’m a key worker. This was taken on my commute at the very beginning of lock-down. It worried me this might soon become the norm. When I posted it online it sent my pictures viral, which has led to me gaining a substantial following and taking part in a feature for the BBC”
Carl Joyce: The new normal, Durham. “I observed my wife hanging out the washing, along with the protective gloves. She hung them as if it was completely normal – something that would have seemed very strange five weeks ago”
Paul Scantlebury: Newspaper headlines, Okehampton, Devon. “Waitrose newspaper headlines before the store opens”
Charles Gaisford: Showing support for the NHS on the South Downs, East Meon, Hampshire. “Everyone has been wanting to demonstrate their appreciation for front-line health workers. Farmers showed their support for the NHS, carving this message into fields close to the Hampshire village of East Meon. It was quite a dramatic sight”
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Furloughed writer and magazine editor from Bristol, specialising in food and drink, music, travel, arts and lifestyle.