I’ve just come across an article about what used to be one of the leading professional darkrooms in London, and one where one of my friends, the late Townly Cooke, once worked as a printer. One of the more interesting exhibition visits I made was to a Magnum show, I think on the South Bank, some years ago with Townly, where he talked about some of the images which he had worked with, although I think the prints in the show were not up to his and Grove-Hardy’s standards.
Grove Hardy ~ Requiem for a Lab is on the unattributed Darkside blog – I’m unsure whether the author wishes to remain anonymous or has simply forgotten to add his name, so I won’t name him either. After Bert Hardy, who had set up the lab with printer Gerry Grove in the 50’s, died in 1995, his wife Sheila continued to run it, renaming it ‘The Bert Hardy Darkroom’, and it finally closed in 2007 after the retirement of the last remaining printer – there simply was not enough work to keep it running.
The darkroom perhaps doesn’t live up to what many might expect of a professional darkroom, and certainly not like some of those that have appeared in books which have looked at photographers and their darkrooms, though it is in most respects a little more well equipped than my own black hole. But its enlargers are a little more primitive than mine, and unable to make sensible use of Multigrade papers, so all its prints were to the end made on graded papers. The writer comments that by “the 2000’s Grove Hardy were probably the only lab in London still using graded paper, and Ilford were making it primarily for them and a handful of other labs worldwide.”
The darkroom was just off the Blackfriars Rd in Southwark, a short walk from where Bert Hardy grew up, and close to another site many photographers knew well some years ago, the Valentine Place premises where Martin Reed set up photographic suppliers Silverprint. Reed sold the company a few years ago, and Silverprint has now moved out of London, but still supplies hard to find photographic materials (like film and silver-based papers) and equipment at new address in Poole, Dorset or by mail order.