Like flicking through a family album, perusing a photographic archive of people and events throws up forgotten gems and moments of affectionate nostalgia. And the occasional embarrassment.

The Press Association has opened its archive of 15 million images to offer a photographic history of the last 150 years in Britain. In it are celebrities aplenty - from kings and queens to music hall entertainers and sporting heroes - but it is the social context in which they stand that really grabs the attention.

The enjoyment of an ice cream on a London street corner in 1921, the interior of a grocer's shop in 1951, and female ticket collectors seen at Victoria station, London, in 1914 are redolent of their eras.

Equally arresting are pictures of the oddities of the day, such as the camel-powered lawnmower introduced as a cost-cutting measure at Kew Gardens, or the one-wheeled motorbike invention that somehow never caught on, later to be superseded by the Sinclair C5.

Many of the most newsworthy events of the photographic age are recorded, whether wars, industrial unrest or the death of suffragette Emily Davison under the King's horse, and in each of the images contained in 150 Years of Britain in Pictures is a glimpse of the nation's social history.

'150 Years of Britain in Pictures ,' by Ammonite Press, £30, available to buy now at