Monday, April 23, 2018

Trench Parting

This is an old Cabinet Card of an unknown soldier. How it came into my possession, I do not know. But look at the parting in his hair: as straight as a die, as pronounced as a Flanders trench.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Chess Box Full Of Memories (Sepia Saturday 415)

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week shows two railway workers in Finland playing chess during a break from work. That stance of studied concentration is matched perfectly by my picture which features a chess game between my father and myself. The photograph must have been taken by my brother, Roger, and it dates from around 1965 when we were on a family holiday in Scotland.

The image - which is a scan of an old 35mm colour slide - is a perfect example of how old photographs can let loose a flight of memories. That red striped Dennis-the-Menace shirt, I can remember with such clarity I am almost tempted to check to see if it is still in my wardrobe. Those boots which have been set out to dry in the sun, just before (or possibly just after) they were cleaned and "dubbined" to waterproof the leather. They were used to climb the mountains that can be seen in the background which, I believe, were on the banks of Kinlochleven in Scotland. The car and the tartan travel blanket open up another box full of memories: that shade of pale blue, the shine of the chrome bumpers, the wing mirrors sticking out like antlers. My mother, Gladys, pinny-wrapped, watching with a degree of proprietorial interest.

I dare say that I can enlarge the image and review the state of the game and decide whether or not I was in a winning position. That, however, would take my attention away from the image itself: a random image, but one dripping with memories.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Language Of The Mill And The Stone Terraced House

I have always found old photographs to be the best stimulus for rekindling memories. This is a photograph of my grandfather, Albert Beanland (1875-1948) which must have been taken in the 1930s or 1940s when he was living along with his wife, Catherine, in Bradford. Albert died in the same year I was born, so I never got to know him - but that smile, those features, that solid Yorkshire stance is very familiar to me.

Whilst reviewing the various on-line records about Albert, I took a look at his entry in the 1939 Register - the special register which was taken just before the outbreak of World War II. By then he was 64 years old and of little interest as far as military conscription was concerned, but he was still working as a textile mechanic and living at 12, Lawrence Street, Princeville, Bradford.

I was vaguely aware that my mother grew up in the Princeville area of Bradford, and this meant that my grandfather had probably spent the last thirty or so years of his life in the same house in Lawrence Street - and that was probably the house that can be seen in the photograph above. 

I managed to find Lawrence Street on an old OS map of Bradford which dates from about the time he moved there from his home town of Keighley. And it was then, that I started to realise that maps can be just as good a stimulus to memories as old photographs. To the best of my knowledge, I have never been to Princeville, but looking at the old map was like a conducted tour of names and places that were handed down to me by generations long gone. Horton Dye Works, Legrams Mill, Bradford Beck, Lidget Green : all are names that resonate. My mother spoke this language as did that generation of my Bradford family. It's the language of the mill and the stone terraced house.

Friday, April 13, 2018

A Fishy Post For Sepia Saturday

It is a sure sign of age when you can reach for one of your own old photographs to respond to a Sepia Saturday prompt.  Nevertheless, how better to match a 1930s picture of a barrow full of old fish than a 1980s picture of a box full of old fish. My picture is one of a sequence of photographs I took in the early to mid 1980s in Grimsby Fish Docks, just at the time when activity in the docks was winding down. At one time Grimsby Docks was the main fishing port in the country, employing hundreds of workers and landing over 20% of all fish caught in the UK. Over the last fifty years activity in the docks has dwindled and the docks have become an industrial wasteland, but plans are now being considered for the redevelopment of the site.

To see more Sepia Saturday posts, go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Highly Pleased With My Forthcoming Funeral

It seems impossible to watch daytime TV at the moment without being continuously assailed by elderly actors and celebrities reminding you that you need to take care of those "final expenses". Whilst this obsession with paying a few quid a week to pay for your own funeral is not new, it does seem to have skipped a few generations (Message to The Lad: when "my time comes" you can pick up the bill for the "lovely send-off", it's the least you can do to pay back all those years of spending money I forked out for you). The modern approach to paying for your own funeral is not half as entertaining as the one favoured by the working class in nineteenth century Britain. That was the great age of Friendly and Burial societies, where you paid the equivalent of a few quid into a fund and got in return, not just a decent send-off, but a good time as well, whilst you were still around to enjoy it.

Browsing through an old copy of The Leeds Times the other day (as one does), I came across this announcement concerning the activities of local Friendly and Burial Societies. Organisations such as the Honourable Order Of The Peaceful Dove and the Ancient Order Of Druids saw no contradiction between describing themselves as "Secret Orders" and advertising their activities in the columns of the local newspaper. Once you had paid your "subs" into the kitty, you not only got a good send off and a few pound for you surviving relatives, you also got regular dinners, useful conversation, and - given that meetings were always held in pubs - a goodly amount of ale as well. 

However good their "lifetime payment guarantees" and the like are, I can't imagine that many pensioners these days, after paying their weekly subscription, go home "highly pleased with a well spent day".

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Chapel On The Hill

I was watching an old episode of Time Team the other day and they were going on about how the ancients used to try and build temples and the like on top of hills. The chapel-buildings of West Yorkshire were the same : show them a half-decent hill and they would stick a chapel on it. I spotted this view of the one in Blackley the other day whilst walking the dog.

Monday, April 09, 2018

The Musical Boy Scouts

This trio of musicians appears on the front of a vintage post card which was sent to a Mr E A Hopkins in Cardiff in October 1913. The message on the reverse is as follows:-
Lydney, 18/10/13
Dearest,  These are poor cards. The boy at the back is the cleverest, he plays cello alright. Best love, Mame xxxxxx
Lydney is a small town in Gloucestershire near the Forest of Dean, and Mame's "dearest" lived some 50 miles away in Cardiff.

The Singer Trio - who were also known as "The Musical Boy Scouts" - toured the variety halls and music halls of Britain in the early part of the twentieth century. In an advert in the variety newspaper "The Era" in November 1913, they described themselves as follows in an advert for tour dates:

"SINGER TRIO : Wonderful musicians. 15 stringed instruments (not toys) played (not played with). Great success everywhere. Wanted. Known at liberty Oct 17, 24. 


The following year brought the outbreak of the First World War, but the Singer Trio were still touring the theatres, although now they were having to share the billing with moving picture shows about the horrors of war - "a beautifully coloured production"!

There are frequent mentions of the Trio in the stage and variety press until September 1915, after which all mention of them ceases. One can only assume that the "musical boy scouts" were eventually drawn into that most tragic of twentieth century performances - the Great War.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

The King, The Prince And The Prestwich Photographer

I would guess that this little Carte de Visite from the studio of W H Martin of Prestwich, Lancashire is Edwardian rather than Victorian. I know nothing about the subject of the photograph other than he seems a bright young fellow with a rather distinctive horseshoe pattern necktie. I don't know much more about W H Martin, other than I suspect it was William H Martin who was born in Prestwich in 1878. In a description of nineteenth and twentieth century Prestwich published by Bury Metropolitan Council, Martin's photographic studios are described as follows:
"The studio on the corner of Hacking Street and advertised as "Artist and Military Photographer ... under the distinguished Royal Patronage of His Majesty the King and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales"
The part about royal patronage sounds very grand, but every small town photographer in the land was claiming similar associations around the turn of the century. With the best will in the world, I cannot see the King and the Prince of Wales getting a tram up to Prestwich in order to have their likeness captured by Willie Martin.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Manchester With A Shiny Surface

I was in Manchester last week with a group of friends - the famous Old Gits Luncheon Club - and we were walking along the Rochdale Canal en-route to a splendid public house called The Briton's Protection, when I spotted two buildings, separated by a few hundred yards and a few hundred years in economic history. My first reaction was to praise the old and condemn the new, but on mature old git reflection I shall admire both. Manchester has changed, but the new Manchester is just as vibrant, striking and picturesque as the old; and with a shiny glass surface.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Harry's Cousin With A Smile (Sepia Saturday 411)

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a magnificent photograph of Florence Timms on her wedding day in 1928. I know nothing of Florence other than that she was the niece of the Vancouver printer and photographer Philip Timms (1874-1973).

I know even less about my match image other than it was taken in Bradford and it features a distant relative. Like Miss Timms, however, she clings on to her bouquet as though it was a lifebelt and she occupies the same historical corridor - somewhere between the first and second world war.

I have two copies of the photograph, but the only clue I have about the identity is that pencilled on the reverse of one of the copies is the information "Harry's cousin". Whoever she is, she looks happy enough: which is more than can be said for Miss Timms. As far as she is concerned, she has not been remembered for being a happy bride, but she surely will be remembered as being the subject of a stunning photograph.

Other Sepia Saturday contributions can be found by going to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Abe, The Set-Piece Taker

This photograph was taken on the occasion of the retirement of Abraham Moore, which - according to the date stamped on the back of the print - was in January 1947. Abraham was the father of my uncle, Harry Moore, and it would appear that he was 73 years old when he retired. All I can assume is that Abraham was happy to continue working after the normal retirement age during the course of the war.

The question arises, of course: what was he retiring from? The only information I have is from the various census returns which are all thirty years before this retirement photograph was taken, but throughout his life he seems to have worked as a "piece taker-in". He lived in Bradford and therefore this job title must have been connected to cloth pieces in the textile industry, but I have not been able to discover exactly what the job entailed. Every time I do a Google search for the term, I finish up with endless lists of the best set piece takers in football. And somehow, I just can't envisage Abraham as some kind of Wayne Rooney of the 1920s.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Faces In The Snake Pit

Looking at this old photograph - which is one of my lost and found collection of unknown and unwanted old photographs - I was initially fascinated by the obvious narrative. It is clearly a demonstration of the venom being removed from poisonous snakes in either Africa or India, and it would appear too date from the 1930s. Soon, however, my attention was captured, not by the snakes or their brave handlers, but by the watching crowd. Every photograph, no matter how old, or how forgotten, has an endless series of other photographs within it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Contours In The Snow

Outside, the snow is thick on the ground and the wind has the bite of a Rottweiler with a hang-over. Even Lucy the Dog refuses to set paw outside the door. The enforced incarceration means that I have to turn to that list of jobs I have been putting off - and in particular the massive challenge of tidying my room. I am an addict, a hopeless hoarder: the kind of compulsive collector whose life has been ruined by the mass production of plastic boxes. I keep things, I put them in plastic boxes, and then I put the plastic boxes in other plastic boxes. My room is a labyrinth of plastic: each box bursting at the Polyethylene Terephthalate seam with papers, photographs and books. When I eventually get around to trying to tidy things up, I get distracted by the first thing I come across. Which brings me on to "The Contour Road Book Of Scotland"

I have no idea where I acquired this small book from - it has been happily housed in one of the many plastic boxes for years. My tidying resolution caused me to examine it and to fall in love with what is a wonderful item of social history. Published in 1913, the book forms part of a series of small handbooks which were designed for the early motorist. It contains maps, descriptions of places of interest, a guide to common road signs (it appears there were only four in use at the time), and a detailed description of the gradients and conditions of all the roads in the land. These were the days when a hill might pose a challenge too far to early petrol engines.

A motorist setting out 105 years ago was setting out on an adventure. 

Description : Class II.  A narrow road like the most of the other Sutherland roads. Fair surface but long hill over to Rosehall; thereafter an undulating road, with surface inclining to be loose and gravelly according to season, almost the whole way to Lochinver. On the whole it is a very good road for this County. Care must be taken on the hill descending into Lochinver"

The challenges were not just in terms of the steep hills and the state of the roads - anxious moments could arise from meeting other motorists out on the road.

As the priority of position at Road junctions, Crossings, and Forks, is frequently the cause of anxious moments, it is suggested that the nautical rule be adhered to, and that all traffic should give place to that approaching on the right"

It all seems so very long ago. Then, however, I look out of the window and see the line of abandoned cars, set still in the snow and the ice, beaten into submission by the gradient of the road outside. Their drivers should have had a copy of the appropriate "Contour Road Book" in their glove compartment.

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Strange And Oversized World Of Frank And Miriam (Sepia Saturday 409)

This week, I did have a perfect match for the Sepia Saturday theme image which shows an oversized loud speaker at some kind of sports event. There was a photograph from one of the albums of Frank Fieldhouse which had been taken at some kind of sporting event in the 1930s or 1940s, and which had a large public address speaker mounted on an old van. Sadly, however, the photograph has fallen through one of the many holes in my family archives, and - for the time being at least - must remain a kind of sepia memory of what was. I mentally reviewed the other suggested themes - oversized objects and strange objects - but nothing seemed to come to mind.

Motivated by my search for the lost loudspeaker, I decided to press ahead with my digital aspiration to scan, copiously file and selflessly preserve all my family photographs and chose, at random, the next print from the "to do" pile. And who should appear than the very same Frank Fieldhouse along with his then fiancĂ© and later wife, Miriam Burnett. The studio photograph, which is dated 1939, shows the couple all dressed up and ready for the ballroom.  It may be that they were seasoned performers on the dance floors of West Yorkshire, if that is the case no record has been handed down (and the one thing you can say about Uncle Frank is that if there was a record to be handed down, handed down it would be).

Therefore my contribution to Sepia Saturday this week may not be strange or oversized, but it is sure to be memorable. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Frank Fieldhouse and Miriam Burnett dancing the foxtrot.

For more strange and oversized objects go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Family Archives : John Arthur Burnett

This photograph of my uncle, John Arthur Burnett (left), must have been taken in the late 1920s or early 1930s. By that time, John had served in the Great War in France, been taken prisoner by the Germans, been married and divorced. The vehicle looks like it might have belonged to a coal merchant. Such coal wagons were regular features along Yorkshire streets in the first half of the twentieth century, delivering the coal that kept the home fires burning.

Monday, March 05, 2018

An Effigy Of The Petrol Age

I am not sure at what point an old, faded photograph becomes something more; or if, indeed, it ever does. This is an old, faded image of I know not who. Three women stand in front of a sedan: relaxed, somewhat stately. The man is in front of a different kind of beast: raw, sporty, full of pent-up energy. Nothing is clear, nothing is sharp. It is a twentieth century icon, an effigy of the petrol age.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Fowler And The Scowler (Sepia Saturday 408)

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a group of golf caddies in Vancouver, Canada. My contributions does not feature a group, has nothing to do with golf, and was taken oceans away from Canada. Nevertheless, as I looked at the capped figure solidly sat in the centre of the group, I couldn't help thinking of my great Uncle Fowler Beanland.

I have several photographs of Fowler surrounded by crown green bowlers and cricket batters, most of which I have shared on Sepia Saturday before.  My photograph this week just shows Fowler and friend (that is Fowler B on the right), neither of whom seem to be brimming over with joy. Indeed, the prize-winning scowl of the friend is a collectors piece in itself. 

From the looks of the car in the background, I would guess that the photograph dates from the 1930s when Fowler would by in his early 60s. There is not enough of a background to identify a location, but there is a good chance that it was taken in Keighley - the West Yorkshire town where he was born and lived most of his life.

(You can see more Sepia Saturday contributions by visiting the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Blue Balls At Fixby

The "Beast From The East" has finally arrived, after more media fanfare and frenzy than preceded the threatened entry of Hannibal's elephants into Rome.  It must be said that the forecasters have got it right; there is snow on the ground and it is a little chilly out of doors. Whether this "extreme" weather justifies the hour upon frosty hour of news coverage it has received in recent days, is quite another question. 

On our walk this morning, LucyDog, found the conditions entertaining enough, mistaking the layer of fresh snow for icing sugar. 

Huddersfield Golf Course is just down the road and I was intrigued to find a newspaper report from 1909 which told of a similar blizzard back in 1909. The golfers of those times were obviously a hardy breed, and a little snow didn't keep them in the clubhouse. 

"The snow was thick on the links, and sleet was falling, as the players drove from the first tee. The wet snow caked in lumps and clung to the boots of the players. This led to an unexpected incident at the seventh hole in the match of Ray and Hayles against Beck and Cassidy. The caddie of the last named player was wearing heavy wooden clogs, and the snow caked on the soles to the thickness of three or four inches.  At the seventh hole, the ball played by Cassidy and Beck, which was painted blue, could not be found. The spectators, players and caddies wandered about in search of the lost ball for some minutes, and eventually the caddie with the clogs, kicked the gathered snow off, and the lost ball was discovered firmly embedded in the snow, which was clung to his clogs. The hole, of course, was lost through this extraordinary incident".

Just in case you are tempted to take comfort from the fact that these century-old incidents took place in January, and we must now be seeing the last throws of the winter, I also came across this headline from 1911.  It would seem that the "Beast From The East" has visited these parts before.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Busy Beaches Of Blackpool

There are some old photographs which just capture your interest, pull you into them, make you marvel at them. They don't need to be technically good - these two old prints from the camera of my Uncle Frank are anything but - they just need to be dripping with social history. Most people will recognise the location - it is, of course, Blackpool. But when was the sea so full, when were the beaches so crowded?

As it is one of Uncle Frank's photos, I am able to give a definitive answer, because Frank Fieldhouse was a great captioner. The photographs were taken on Bank Holiday Monday in 1940. August 1940 was, of course, right at the height of the Battle of Britain, when British cities were being bombed and the war was at its most critical phase. Thousands, however, obviously found the need to flock to the Lancashire seaside in order to indulge in the age-old British pleasure of paddling in the sea.

The second of the two small prints concentrates on the beach - a beach upon which it would have been impossible to swing even a skinny cat.  When you survey all these people enjoying a rare day out, you can't help but wonder what dangers they were bound to face in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Whilst the newspapers of the day were full of dire warnings of the dangers from the air, from invasion, and from shortages caused by the sinking of British shipping, sadly it was a far more prosaic danger which was to face a dozen of these trippers to Blackpool on this particular Bank Holiday Monday. As the Lancashire Daily Post reported the next day, twelve people died in a coach crash as they made their way home from a Bank Holiday trip to Blackpool.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Winnie In The Garden With Marigolds

Normally the lover of old and unknown photographs is beset by a shortage of information, but this little print comes with an essay pencilled on the reverse. To quote it in full: -

"Winnie in doorway of hut, flowers in front, and marigolds - new variety. August 1926"

There is nothing further to be said.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Dating Pineapples In Greece

Scanning old colour negatives always seems to give results that don't carry the same weight of history as you get with monochrome negatives. We are so used to dividing photographic images into two mutually exclusive categories: the fist five decades were black and white decades, the last five were in colour. We therefore "see" colour images as more modern than photographs that may have been taken on the same day but were shot in black and white.

This sequence of negatives were taken in Athens and Piraeus over thirty years ago, but you need to dig down to find the dating clues. Cars are always a useful standby, as - to a lesser extent - are clothes and hair styles. The fact that I have a full head of curly brown hair on the second shot in the sequence below, suggests a date which must be almost pre-historical.

There is also a shot which was taken outside what I think was (is) the National Historical Museum, which shows the museum attendant quietly nodding off on a chair near the entrance. This, of course, was the era before security guards, bag scanning and closed-circuit TV.

We can, perhaps, turn to the price of pineapples in the first picture to get a more definitive guide to the date, but a lot has changed since the 1980s. So perhaps it is best to stick with my memories of the holiday, which - I guess - must have been in about 1985.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Taylors Here, Taylors There, Taylors Everywhere.

The world of Victorian photographic studios is full of Taylors. Taylors here, Taylors there, and in the 1880s and 1890s, Taylors every bloody where. The most notable Taylors was established by Andrew and George Taylor (A & G Taylor) in London in the 1860s, and within forty years it developed into the largest photographic studio chain in Britain, with branches in most large towns and cities. They also claimed to be "Photographers To The Queen", and later went on to establish branches in the United States. It is unclear whether this is the same firm as the one responsible for this carte de visite - Taylor & Son of Doncaster. It would appear that A&G did have a branch in Doncaster, but I can see no reason why they should use the different title there than anywhere else. "Photographer to the Royal Family" might seem to confirm the link between the two, but during the 1880s any Tom, Dick and Photographic Harry worth his salt claimed to have a Royal or aristocratic warrant of some sort or another. 

What is needed, of course, is an authoritative directory of Victorian and Edwardian photographic studios. A Google search has not provided any clear advice on how to tell one Taylor from another, but I live in hope that someone has penned a definitive monologue on the subject.

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Grazed Knee And An Open Sea (Sepia Saturday 406)

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a group of people in swimming costumes; sitting around, standing around, and hanging around. The pool and the beach have always been prime locations for "family snaps", and there was an album-full of potential images for me to choose from.

I have chosen a picture from, I suspect, 1950 which shows my brother Roger and myself standing around and crouching around on the beach in either New Brighton or Bridlington. No doubt Roger will be able to tell us if this was West Coast or East Coast. That is a rather lame test of his memory, so he gets a bonus point if he can remember why he has a rather large plaster on his left knee!

You can see more Sepia Saturday submissions by going to the SEPIA SATURDAY BLOG and following the links.