IT IS not really important to need to know the people or even the area to find much of an exhibition of hundreds of old photographs fascinating.

These are from the Beaford Archive put together in an exhibition of “never-before-seen” photographs taken over 20 years by James Ravilious and Roger Deakins, a co-founder of the Beaford Centre back in the early 1970s.

They capture life in rural Devon, starting from the early days of Beaford and give an unparalleled view of Devon’s landscape, its communities and its farms and farming and a way of life that has mostly disappeared.

All these photographs and many more going back into the late 1800s can be seen in the “Celebrate Your Heritage” event until the end of July at the Ivor Marsh Library at Chulmleigh College.

The archive pictures include Eggesford such as Eggesford House in its heyday, Burrington such as villagers going on outings, Chawleigh and Chulmleigh. Nearly every one has an explanation of what is going on and where.

In part of the library furnished with comfy chairs is a rolling screen showing the photographs. Around the walls are large-size mounted photographs and a table is littered with more so visitors can study them closely.

At the launch of the exhibition co-curator Becky Huxtable said that there had already been a number of visitors who had seen themselves, family or friends in some of the photos. School pupils had also found parents or former members of staff.

“We invite the whole community to come along and share the incredible photographic social history provided by the Beaford Archive,” she said.

Sara Feasey, Head of Expressive Arts and who co-curated the exhibition with Becky, explained that the school has had a long association with the Beaford Centre, collaborating on many projects with school life being documented by James Ravilious.

There were photographs of cattle markets, fairs, maypole dancing, flower shows, children trying to eat buns dangled on strings at a Chulmleigh Fair, of harvest and the weather. Of gentlemen in bowler hats and ladies in bonnets taking a gentle paddle on an outing to the seaside, pictures of school buses or simply showing how an area has changed, bridges been rebuilt and much more.

As someone at the launch said: “It really is a fascinating record of social change and of changes in farming”.

A questionnaire asked what people would next like to see recorded for the Archive with six options.

James Ravilious and Roger Deakins’ photographs from the 1970s and 1980s are also available on-line.

The Ivor Marsh Library is at the side of Chulmleigh College with a car park beside it. During term time it is open from 9am-4pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and from 9am - 3pm on Thursdays.

During Chulmleigh Fair Week it will be open from 9am-4pm on Tuesday, July 23 to Friday, July 26 and on Saturday, July 27 from 9am-1pm.

The Beaford Archive is an extraordinary collection of material about North Devon from 1890, best known for its photographs by James Ravilious for whom the Archive was his life’s work and it was one of the first commissions taken on by Roger Deakins, now an Oscar-winning cinematographer.

In the past Beaford has published more than 10,000 photographs from its Archive. Now, thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund Beaford has been able to show this collection of more than 100,000 digitised images including a selection from Ravilious and Deakins that have never been seen before.