The Regnum Crouch Group is an alliance of photographic clubs in West Sussex. Its main function is to oversee the organisation of two annual photographic contests between member clubs.
The group has grown in a rather casual way from very simple beginnings somewhere around 1950 when the Chichester and Bognor Regis clubs staged a print battle between themselves. The following year, the Worthing club was invited to join in and in the next year the Littlehampton club also joined. For some years, the four clubs continued this annual print contest, taking it in turns to stage the event.
At the time Littlehampton became involved, the annual competition had become an annual major event in the programmes of the participating clubs. To encourage this, Charles Howard, a Chichester photographer, generously donated a shield for which the clubs could compete. This shield was given the name “Regnum Shield” after the ancient name of the City of Chichester and to acknowledge that the contest owed its origin to the Chichester club.
At this stage, it was the custom for each host club to make all the arrangements for the contest, including engaging a judge for the event. However, after a few years, it was felt that it would be better if this informal arrangement was given some degree of formality with a constitution and a “group official” who could speak with the combined authority of the four clubs. It was considered that this would enable the group to seek judges of higher repute and so make the contests of greater interest. This lead to the establishment of a small committee to manage the affairs of the “Regnum Crouch Group” and the creation of rules and guidelines which host clubs should follow.
Up to this time, everyone had felt that they did not want the arrangement which had grown up so casually to take on too formal an aspect, in spite of some hints from the Central Association. That association would have liked the group to become the focus for the establishment of a “West Sussex Federation of Clubs”, similar to what had been occurring in other counties. But the group was still determined to keep its competitions friendly and local, as it had always been. Moreover, no one wanted the responsibility, and work, involved in running a major federation.
By now there were five clubs involved, Southwick having joined the group. The group was run by a small committee of representatives from each club, with one elected as “convener”. It was the latter’s job to make general arrangements, including finding a judge, but detailed arrangements were left to the host club.
By the late 1950’s, colour slides were being increasingly used and it was proposed that a slide competition might be added to the group’s activities. This received great encouragement from the late T Edmund Crouch, a Worthing watchmaker and jeweller, who had always taken a great interest in photographic affairs. He donated a shield to be competed for in the slide contest. This shield, in recognition, was given the name “The Crouch Shield”. (The current - 2012 - shield is not, however, the one donated by Mr Crouch. In 2001, the original shields for both competitions became full with the small shields which were added to it each year to record the winning clubs. New shields were acquired, which are still in use. The shield for digital images (formerly for slides) is still called the Crouch Shield. The original shields were presented in 2002 to Littlehampton Museum, which has a moderate specialist collection of photographic memorabilia.)
Although the present organisation was beginning to emerge, there was still resistance to the establishment of a formal group. For example, the stationery was simply headed “West Sussex Inter-Club Committee” and for some years no other clubs were allowed to join. But there was increasing pressure from other clubs wanting to join in and, gradually, the numbers increased.
One worry was the growth of small “Works Clubs”, which seemed to be proliferating at the time, often springing up quickly and declining just as fast. It was felt that to allow such clubs to join was likely to prove a distinct disadvantage. So the “rules” were devised in such a way as to enable the refusal of such applications. Gradually, those rules were relaxed but there was still a determination to remain a small group (not more than twelve clubs) so that life did not become over complicated. Not all of the clubs competed in both competitions although all were eligible. For example, for some years Littlehampton was in the unfortunate position of not being able to make an entry in the Regnum print competition.
The way in which the group grew made for greater cooperation between member clubs and maintained a very friendly and comradely spirit throughout the Group.
At the AGM held on 25 March 1994 at Field Place Worthing it was agreed that trade processed prints could be accepted for the Regnum Print Competition.
After the year 2000, the increasing use of digital cameras led to a fairly rapid reduction in the number of photographers using slide film. The last competition for slides was on 22 March 2007 at Southwick. The following year, on 12 March 2008, the first competition for digital projected images (DPI) was hosted by Steyning. The “digital revolution” also led to the creation of the group website which carries details of the Group – its officers, member clubs, the results of competitions and the rules and constitution of the Group.
The number of competing clubs has remained remarkably constant over the years but there have been some departures – Crawley last competed on 21 March 2001, Haywards Heath on 5 November 1998 and Shoreham on 17 March 1998. Since then there has only been one change – Midhurst joined and competed for the first time on 21 March 2011.
It is a tribute to the pioneers of these competitions that they still attract considerable interest and the annual competitions are keenly contested and well supported.