Festival of Britain Photobooth

Del and Janie

This is the second vintage photobooth photo from Del’s Family archive, taken at the Festival of Britain. The festival was a national exhibition held around England during the summer of 1951. It was organised to give Britons a feeling of hope in the aftermath of the second world war. It also promoted British interests in science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts. The Festival’s centrepiece was in London on the South Bank of the Thames, where this photo was taken.

On Del’s Facebook page, her sister Jannie posted this booth photo from the festival. Not only did I love the image of the two of them as toddlers but the name of the photo studio prompted a few questions. Was this really a photobooth photo, as I had assumed? Maybe it was a studio shot taken by an itinerant photographer who’d set up shop for the festival?

I started to search for more information about Cyril Astor and he turns up in some interesting places.

The Oxford English Dictionary, as well as providing all of the known definitions of words in English, uses quotations to illustrate the usage of the words. Here is one of the quotations for the trade name of what I mostly refer to as a photobooth –


The proprietary name of a machine that takes photographs automatically; a photograph taken by such a machine. Also abbrev. as Photomat.

1963 Trade Marks Jrnl. 22 May 691/1 Photomaton.+ Photographic apparatus and parts thereof+Cyril Astor Photomaton (London) Limited,+Rhyl,+North Wales; manufacturers and merchants.”

This led me to a patent application that Cyril made in 1966. The Patent Index says that he applied for patents to make improvements to the Photomaton machine in the early 1960s.

“Abstract of GB962798 962,798. Rollerways. CYRIL ASTOR PHOTOMATON (LONDON) Ltd. March 2, 1962 [Dec. 16, 1960], No. 43458/60. Heading B8A. [Also in Division G2] Film is conveyed through a processing tank by a plurality of vertically-spaced sets of rollers, each set being individual…”

Another example of Cyril’s work from the festival.

Although his company was registered in London he traded out of Rhyl, North Wales, where the other of Del’s booth pics was taken.

In addition to being an inventor and photographer, Cyril ran a successful hire company for his booths. He advertised this service in Billboard magazine on the 26 November, 1966.

On the back of each of the cardboard photo frames it says, “Photographer: Cyril Astor. You can obtain three beautiful postcard sized enlargements by sending this photograph with name and address to Cyril Astor, 28, North Drive, Rhyl, North Wales. Together with postal order valued 5/-. It is never too late to send and you get this photo back.”  I imagine it is too late now, despite the claim, but it does make me think there could be some fabulous photobooth postcard gems out there to be discovered!

From The Festival of Britain “Memories” Website

Another fabulous photo found online. I cannot remember where this photo originated.

  1. David Turner said:

    Found your site while looking for Cyril Astor. My Cousin has two of Astor’s photobooth images. One is definitely dated 1956. The other I think I can date to 1951. So it looks like he was making these booths at that time but perhaps the patent had not gone through.
    I am grateful for your site as it has help me work out that these two images were taken in an arcade/booth rather than on the street.

    Best wishes
    David Turner


  2. Kirsty said:

    Hi, I found a photo of my grandparents and it was dated 1949.


  3. Peter Hastings said:

    I too have a photograph that says exactly the same and today I was wondering if any of his records remain, and like you I’d be delighted to see a full sized print from my photo if such a thing existed. Actually thought that it had been taken in a studio.


    • You can find some examples in online community history collections. You may be able to find more information about your photo that way?


  4. S hobson said:

    I found s photo of my mom with Cyril Astor ( happy snaps) West Parade, Rhyl. It is in a brown patterned mount. Not seen anything of this pattern. Strange thing is we have recently moved and live yards away from West Parade! Unfortunately there is no date, have you any idea what years he used this pattern? Any information would be appreciated. Thank you.
    Mrs S Hobson


  5. Grant Eddington said:

    Hi, I have come across a photo taken as part of the Festival of Britain 1951 but I don’t know who it is. Can I send it to you?
    Melbourne Aus

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Grant, if it is a Photobooth photo then I would love to see it, but I’m afraid I likely won’t know who it is. My email address is kgkatherine62@gmail.com/. I also live in Melbourne, btw. Thanks for visiting!


  6. LJ said:

    Thanks for writing this post! I recently found a Cyril Astor photo booth picture myself (I collect cabinet cards and carte de visite)
    I googled “Cyril Astor” and found your post. Had no idea this was a photo booth image but mystery solved!


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