It happened many years ago to keen Chichester photographer Dave Turner when the old established family business Smurthwaites decorators’ merchants, in North Street, closed down.
Clutching the two boxes, Dave hurried home to his darkroom to find he had acquired 48 glass halfplates, a small portion of the work of John Herbert Smurthwaite.
Scenes from the early 1900s were exposed as he got busy with his enlarger, revealing traditional country picnics, sailing barges and family groups photographed in the Chichester area.
Dave said: “When the images came up in the darkroom, I was really thrilled. One becomes quite fanciful - who were these people, what were their dreams?”
It became clear that Mr Smurthwaite was a photographer of some skill, yet he was an amateur whose full-time work was managing the paint and wallpaper shop started by his father.
Dave said: “He must have been quite a sensitive man. These are not just grab shots, he composed them carefully and there is a good sense of balance.”
He was able to find out that John Herbert Smurthwaite married Hilda but had no children. He died on April 30, 1951, aged 65, and is buried at Fishbourne.
• This article first appeared in our Yesterday magazine in November 1989