Saturday, January 17, 2009

Fowler In Longtown

Postcard No. 0108 : LONGTOWN
Like most Edwardian postcard collectors, Great Uncle Fowler put together the bulk of his collection during the first decade of the twentieth century. Many of his postcards are addressed to him - Mr Fowler Beanland - at 48 Swan Street, Longtown. Fowler was born in, and spent most of his life in, Keighley West Yorkshire, so what was he doing working in Longtown, Cumbria?
Longtown is close to the border between England and Scotland and was a planned 18th century development rather than a town that grew out of an ancient village community. Its early prosperity was partly due to the importance of sheep : it still boasts the largest sheep market in England, and it had a thriving textile industry in the early nineteenth century. Although the textile industry declined during the later part of the century, there was a thriving bobbin mill in the area until well into the twentieth century and I wonder if this was the reason for Uncle F's presence in the town as his home town of Keighley also had a thriving bobbin-making industry. In the 1901 census, Uncle F - who was still living in Keighley - was listed as a "spindle-maker" - spindles are very closely related to bobbins and there is a good chance that the Longtown bobbin-making factory also made spindles. But the fact that there was a possible job for Fowler in Longtown does not explain why he was there : people didn't move around the country in that way a hundred years ago.
The postcard featured here is an odd one, and I suspect, a home-made one. The "Longtown" title seems to been stamped onto the photograph (indeed, if you look closely stamped twice) and the quality of the card is not of a professional standard. At the centre of the view is a couple with a pram and a clue to their identity can be found in the message on the reverse : 
"From your friends,
Mr and Mrs Gibson, Longtown
See Other Side"
So the mystery continues. Why was Uncle F in Longtown? Who were Mr and Mrs Gibson? Who was the baby's father?

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