Lexi Frost on the ‘AA Excursion’
While many of us continue to spend more time than we would like in our own homes, the AA Archive invites you to live vicariously through photographs of our 19th century predecessors out-and-about on their distinctly non-social-distanced annual excursions.
The AA collection houses photographs from the Architectural Association’s earliest annual excursions, dating as far back as the 1870s. As early as the 1860s, groups of AA members would visit contemporary or historic buildings in and around London. In 1870 Edmund Sharpe organised the first large scale excursion, taking 30 AA members to Lincolnshire to visit Lincoln and Peterborough Cathedrals, as well as a number of local churches. An official ‘Annual Excursion Sub Committee’ was established around 1881, with Charles R. Pink as the Honorary Secretary. The photographer John Loftus Robinson would accompany expeditions, taking ample photographs. Exotic early destinations included Worcester, Kirby Hall near Kettering and Bloxham near Banbury, but occasionally went as far as France and Italy.
AA members enjoyed familiar but presently forbidden pastimes like ‘crowding together in the carriage’, ‘lounging around in the sun with a sketchbook’, ‘messing about on a Cathedral’ and ‘sitting astride a canon at Wollaton Hall’…
AA Excursion, 1885, Broughton Castle, Oxfordshire.
AA Excursion, 1889, Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire.
AA Excursion, 1888, Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire.
The Archive also holds accompanying paraphernalia, including programmes, reports, tickets, and drawings made on the trips. The tickets (often signed by the Honorary Secretary) certified that the attendee was in fact a member of the AA (not just a gatecrasher). They are decorative mementos, sometimes including a timetable and itinerary for the excursion on the reverse.
Charles Pink also compiled a series of excursion sketchbooks from 1882-88, showing drawings and sketches of buildings visited along the way.
Page from one of Charles Pink’s AA excursion sketchbooks, covering a Norfolk excursion, c1880.