Friday, June 15, 2018

Yawningly Boring Postcard Of The Month


My entry for this month's "Most Boring Picture Postcard In the World" competition is this postcard from the "La France Touristique" series which features a car parked outside a house: all in stunning monochrome. According to the caption, it is a photograph of the town of Les Matelles, which is an ancient town in southern France surrounded by beautiful pine forests. None of this is highlighted by the yawningly boring photograph.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Third Time Lucky In Brighouse Art Gallery


The thing about vintage picture postcards is that so often it is a trial of strength between the photograph on the front and the message on the back as to which can be the best source of historical interest. A perfect example is provided by a recent acquisition: a 1907 postcard of the Smith Art Gallery in Brighouse, Yorkshire. The Smith Gallery, and many of its paintings, were a gift to the town by Alderman William Smith, a local mill owner and benefactor. The gallery was built in 1906 and opened in the following year, and therefore this picture postcard must have been published to commemorate its opening. The gallery reflects a time when the northern mill town would compete with each other in terms of the grandness of their public buildings and the breadth of their provision for the arts.


The reverse of the card contains a message sent to Miss Lottie Roberts of Cleckheaton from her friend Laura in Brighouse. These were the days before holidays to the Costas or Dating Apps would provide the opportunity to meet the partner of your dreams, and young people were limited to the simple pleasures of a walk in the park.

Dear Lottie,
We have arranged to go to the park on Tuesday evening. Surely we shall get off this time, it is always said the third time pays off for all. Come down with Clara.
Love from Laura.

I hope Laura was lucky in love and lucky in her third walk in the park. I was certainly lucky to find this fine old postcard and the store of social history that it contained.


Friday, June 08, 2018

Different Times, Different People (Sepia Saturday 422)


Our Sepia Saturday image for this week features a lonely soul sat on the beach in Bridlington in 1922. My photograph moves forward nineteen years and switches coast from the East to the West coast of England. The print comes from one of the photograph albums of my Uncle, Frank Fieldhouse, and therefore we know precisely when and where the photograph was taken. It shows the sands at St Annes On Sea and it was taken in 1941. You might be tempted to think that it is the miserable dull weather that is responsible for the isolated souls who had taken to the beach, but it is - of course - the year. This was 1941 and World War II was at its height, and the Lancashire coastal area was coming under heaver attack from enemy bombing raids almost on a daily basis. It may seem strange, in these circumstances, that people would still visit the seaside and even sit on deckchairs to watch the sea go out (and the bombing raids come in!). These, however, were different times and different people: people whose measure of danger had taken on a whole new scale.

I couldn't resist leaving the subject of "Alone on the Beach" without sharing a photograph that I took some 25 years after the St Annes photograph. This is a photograph I took in Ireland and it shows two nuns walking along a totally deserted beach. Different times, different people.




Friday, June 01, 2018

Picture Post Style In Burnley


I have always thought that the British magazine, Picture Post (1938-57),  represented photojournalism at its very best and for some time now I have been trying to build up a collection of original copies. A new bundle arrived the other day which were all from the period 1942/3: the very height of World War II. The stories in each issue not only represent the key problems of the day, but they also often look forward to the kind of world that will exist when the long war is finally over.
The issue of the 7th February 1942 led with the danger facing Australia from invasion by the Axis Powers. The other contents ranged over a variety of issues from canteens for wartime farm workers to American students dancing to raise funds for the Free French. There was even a wonderful polemic aimed at the poor quality of film still photography.

One of the outstanding features of Picture Post magazine was the quality of its own photographs and some of the finest British photographers of the twentieth century worked for the magazine including Bert Hardy and Bill Brandt. One article in the 7th February 1942 edition tells the story of how one of the great opera companies – Sadler’s Wells – took to the road during the war to bring entertainment, and culture, to wartime workers. When they visited Burnley in Lancashire photographers from Picture Post were there to record the event. And they did so with considerable style.
Burnley housewives queue for seats : You still see shawls and clogs in Burnley. Their wearers line up at the box office of the Victoria Theatre to book seats for “Madame Butterfly” (Picture Post)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Three Views And A Dollop Of History


You get three views of Huddersfield for the price of one on this vintage postcard I acquired the other day, but as with all postcards from one hundred years or more ago, you get an awful lot of history as well. Those familiar with Huddersfield, will probably recognise the three views: most of the buildings featured are still standing today. The General Post Office is no longer the post office, but the building still exists and is directly across the street from the current post office which was built in 1914. The view of Church Street was a little confusing until I realised that it is, in fact, Cross Church Street, and that is clearly St Peters Parish Church at the far end. 

Turn the card over and the potential interest is maintained. The postmark date is unreadable, but every indication would be that the card was sent at the height of the postcard boom in the period 1903-1907. The recipient was a certain Miss L A Kiddell-Monroe in Clacton-on-Sea and that name, date and location suggests that this was probably the sister of the famous children's illustrator Joan Kiddell-Monroe who was born in Clacton in 1908.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Constantly Updating Amy


This photograph of Amy and Wilf Sykes must have been taken in the mid 1930s. Amy Beanland was born in August 1904 in Keighley, Yorkshire, the eldest daughter of Albert and Kate Beanland (my mother Gladys was Amy's younger sister). Wilf was born in the Yorkshire town of Pontefract, the son of a local policeman. His family later moved to Bradford and Wilf trained to become a wool-sorter and easily found work in what was then the wool capital of the world. Amy, the daughter of a mill mechanic, also worked in the mill and met and - in 1929 - married Wilf and settled down to a settled life in a Bradford suburb.

​In 1939 (according to the 1939 Register) they were living at 1, Yarwood Grove in Great Horton, Bradford in a smart new semi. It was a house I was familiar with as we would often visit it for family parties when I was a young boy. The settled nature of their future came apart in 1963 when Wilf - still in his 50s - died. It would be easy to imagine that Amy would settle into the life of a lonely widow, but she would have none of it - she was to marry twice more before eventually passing away aged 98 in 2001. 

In tracing the long and romantically active life of Amy through the various public records, what I was really surprised to discover was how that 1939 Register was continuously updated, decades after it had been first introduced to organise wartime ration-books and conscription. Careful handwritten amendments have been added to the original records to update her details following her marriage to Leslie Hanby in 1969 and Joseph Barker in 1974.


Monday, May 21, 2018

Streets Ahead Of Its Time


Street photography is all the rage at the moment. As a photographic genre it is usually said to date from the introduction of miniature 35mm cameras in the 1930s. But this old print - which appeared in a mixed batch of old photographs bought an eBay - dates from at least a decade earlier. It really is a fine example: whatever the camera, it has managed to capture the moment in time with both style and substance. That look between the two girls is worth a short novella, that busy background could give rise to a short thesis on social history.

Restoring Fixby To Its Rightful Place In The World


I live in Fixby, which today is in Huddersfield. According to Wikipedia, "Fixby is traditionally part of Huddersfield". This is not the case at all - the township of Fixby was traditionally part of Halifax. It was only transferred to Huddersfield (and Kirklees) when the M62 motorway was built and someone decided that the motorway would henceforth be the division between the two boroughs. One can only assume that, at the same time, they dug up this ancient dividing stone and shipped it off to retirement in a park in West Vale. I plan to kidnap the old stone and replace it in its original position and thus return Fixby to its rightful place in the world. Has anyone got a chisel I can borrow?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Remembering Doncaster Market Place


This is a scan of an old picture postcard which must date from the first decade of the twentieth century. I worked in Doncaster for almost twenty years in the 1980s and 90s, and this scene of the busy market place was still recognisable then. There was a pub, just on the left, I remember well although its name has long faded into obscurity. Perhaps I need to revisit the town.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Gone Fishing


For a number of years now I have regularly gathered together all my various blog posts and published them every so often in book form. The main reason for this is to create an archive of my words and images so that when Blogger or Wordpress or Facebook eventually curls up and expires, I still have a physical record of what I have been doing for the last twelve years or so. I suspect that words and pictures printed on good old fashioned paper have a better chance of surviving the post-digital apocalypse than anything else. As images have become more important to me over the years, the physical format of the books has grown accordingly - and the last few have weighed in at a coffee table hugging 10 by 8 inches.

I also like to occasionally annoy relatives and friends by giving them a copy of my latest book at birthdays and Christmas - it represents a gift on a similar level of both style and uselessness to a knitted toilet roll cover. If you have a relative or friend who has annoyed you recently, you may want to gift them a copy of my latest magnum opus - aptly entitled "Fishing In The Pond Of Inconsequence". It is available from Amazon in most countries and good bookshops gone bad. To find it on Amazon simply enter the search term "Alan Burnett Inconsequence" - which quite neatly sums everything up.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Between A Rock And A Hard Place


Unknown Group (1930s)
A group pose for a picture - their identity and the location has long since faded into obscurity. Wherever they are, they are caught between a rock and a hard place, with the sun shining down

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Striding Into Sherman's Studio


Unknown Soldier : Studio Of George Sherman, Great Yarmouth (1880s/90s)
He stands so upright, you can almost imagine him marching into the Pier Studios in Great Yarmouth. Photograph taken, he marches out again - striding towards his future.



Wednesday, May 09, 2018

The Last Chara To Dewsbury


Whenever you look at an old photograph of a familiar scene you become aware of content; the very scale and detail of what is going on. This is Brighouse in the early 1920s: there are shops, there are men waiting for the Black Bull to open and there is a charabanc waiting to trundle you off to Dewsbury Market (fare 2/- return). It is busy, it is lived in, it is a cobbled metropolis.

The Black Bull is still there but now it is flanked by some concrete conveniences and a Wilko wall. And the last "chara" for Dewsbury left a long time ago.


Dear Elsie, Excuse me not writing to before now. I will send you a letter later but with the card you will see I have not forgotten you. I got your letter and card was very nice and thank very much. Well my Dear friend how are you keeping I hope you are well. I am very well myself. Do excuse me Elsie Dear not writing before now. I have been thinking about you Elsie Dear all the same. Well Dear I will stop. With love I remain your loving friend, Edith xxxxxx

Elsie Shuker of Church Street, St Georges in Shropshire was 28 years old when she received this postcard from her friend Edith in Brighouse. Perhaps they knew each other from being in domestic service together? In the 1939 Register, Elsie Shuker - who was then 44 years old - is simply listed as "Daily Girl, Domestic Duties".

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Majestic Grandeur In Concrete


Huddersfield Market Hall From Queensgate
I must have walked passed the market hall numerous times without noticing it. When I did, I probably dismissed it as a concrete monstrosity. Yesterday, however, I saw it in a different light; grand, majestic even. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

No Stain On The Land


We've been taking Lucy up to Stainland Recreation Ground for her walks these last few weeks. It makes a change from the usual circuit of the Crematorium ("the circle of gloom", as Lucy likes to call it). You can look down on a green world from up there. It is Yorkshire at its best: a hint of wildness, more than a dash of raw beauty, and the mills, towers and houses only a long-distance lens away.


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. 

NORTHAMPTON DAILY ECHO 21 December 1914

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"!

MANSFIELD REPORTER AND SUTTON TIMES  11 September 1914
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