Express Photo Co.

Apart from the post war efforts of Thompson & Son no other business so fully recorded the street scenes of Coventry and district. The Express Photo Company was run by Ernest Ratledge who was born in 1880 into a family that made its living from photography in Sheffield. By 1905 he had his own photographic business in Boston, Lincolnshire but by 1906 he was based in Rugby. Although he only stayed in the town for a couple of years he spent his time systematically recording every street and significant building in Coventry (and much of Warwickshire). In doing so he stole a march of at least five years on most other photographers who had yet to move out of the city centre. Considering the pace of development in Coventry at this time, such early visual evidence is invaluable. Sadly the firm was not quite as meticulous in their processing techniques because their sepia postcards are often rather faded. Ratledge’s numbering system suggests at least 400 different views were published from within the old city boundary. He continued his technique of employing a canvasser to drum up business from local retailers in other parts of the country until eventually settling down, after the First World War, in Halton in Bedfordshire.