It is not only the material that glass-plate negatives are made of that means they have an inevitable fragility, but if they are not stored carefully the photo-sensitive emulsion on them is prone to deterioration, as in this case. However, if one ignores the blemished areas and the incoming meteorites, the rest of the image is of the sharp quality that is expected from negatives of this type, and shows a diverse range of motorcars.
The location is Southwold, on the Suffolk coast some 12 miles south of Lowestoft, but none of the period directories and motoring year books consulted list Webb’s Garage prior to the 1920s and yet it must have been a fairly substantial establishment before that.
The nearest car is a Siddeley-Deasy with a large Daimler beyond it, next to that a Model T Ford which by way of somewhat ironic contrast is adjacent to a Rolls-Royce. From another glass-plate photo in the set, the Rolls-Royce has been identified as a 1912 Barker bodied landaulette, owned by Sir Ralph Blois who resided near Southwold at Cockfield Hall, Yoxford.
Skipping the next three cars which could be …… or that, it looks like a Wolseley facing the camera whilst forward of it is almost certainly a Belgian SAVA. As this has a LH registration that ran from February to August 1913 then this photograph is likely to have been taken either in the summer of that year or in 1914.
Leaving aside the unidentified cars, there is a real puzzle which may not be readily apparent unless the photo it is studied closely, this being the vehicle sideways on behind the SAVA. It is a horse-drawn stagecoach from an earlier era, and its signboard on the roof reads ‘Marlborough’. There is only one place in Britain of that name, and that is in far away Wiltshire. What the coach was doing in a Suffolk garage at this period in its history is anyone’s guess.