Photographs only came along only once in a while. This was the age before smart phone selfies, an age when a portrait was an event. An event to get out your Sunday best and put on your best pin and watch chain.
Whenever I walk passed a pub – or better still sit down with a pint in a pub – I can’t stop thinking about the tales the building has to tell. What love or what loss, what joy or what sadness took place in such buildings? When I walked by the Bull and Dog in Stainland the other day, contemplating these strands of social history over a pint was not an option, as the pub is now closed. I could not, however, stop myself from going in search of a story when I got home.
The story comes from the pages of the Halifax Courier of Saturday 14th July 1855. It is not a tale of high drama, but a story of a domestic dispute which serves to illustrate two things. First of all, we tend to take our ability to turn on a tap and get an endless supply of fresh drinking water for granted these days. Secondly, people were just as strange, just as petty, just as stubborn and just as daft, a hundred and sixty years ago as they are now. This is the story of the Great Stainland Water Fight.
DISPUTED WATER RIGHT
George Beaumont, parochial constable for Stainland, was summoned by Hannah Gledhill, landlady of the Bull and Dog Inn, Stainland, for assaulting her on the 27th ult. Mr. Mitchell appeared for the complainant, and Mr. J. B. Holroyde for the defendant. The case was postponed from the previous Saturday to produce certain witnesses.
Mr. Mitchell, in opening the case, observed that the assault arose out of a question of right to fetch water from pump which the defendant alleged he had the sole control of. But it would have been much better for so respectable a man as Mr. Beaumont, to have settled the matter out of court. Mr. Mitchell called his client, who stated that her husband was tenant under Mr. James Whiteley, who also was Mr. Beaumont’s landlord. On the day in question she went to a neighbour, Mrs. Davison, and asked her consent to get two cans of water from the pump in the yard adjoining. She got the water and was returning to her house when Mr. Beaumont came up and forced the cans from her hands, the contents of one of them were partly spilt and the remainder she threw over him. He then took the other can, which was nearly full of water, and threw it over her. In her cross-examination by Mr. Holroyde: She said it was not the proper way to the pump through Mrs. Davison’s house, but she went that way because it was nearest. She knew that only those neighbours who paid for the repairs of the pump were entitled to fetch water. She paid her proportion of the cost of the last repair to Mr. Beaumont’s daughter, about nine months since. The amount was 2d. She was upon Beaumont’s property when he stopped her. Her servant girl might have been turned back without water many times. She took two cansfull of rain water instead of clean water, which the defendant saw her take, but said nothing.
Richard Hall was called, and stated that he was between twenty and thirty yards from the parties when he saw Beaumont throw a canfull of water over the complainant. She then went for some rain water. Beaumont looked into the cans, but did not empty them. Both the parties were very passionate. Betty Davison stated that she lived opposite to Beaumont’s house, and was a tenant under the same landlord. She allowed Mrs. Gledhill to fetch some water, as she had done many times to other neighbours. The tenants kept the pump in repair, but whether the complainant had paid anything or not towards the repairs she could not tell. The defendant has the care of the pump.
Mr. Holroyde, in defence, stated that his client is one of the tenants of the Dobroyd farm, and had the charge of the pump. The complainant had repeatedly been told that she had no right to fetch water since she would not contribute to the repair of the pump. On the day in question his client’s little girl saw the complainant again taking away water, and told her father, who met the complainant in the road, where the quarrel ensued, in consequence of the defendant interfering with her for taking water to which she had no right. The complainant then fetched rain water instead of water from the pump, thus tacitly acknowledging that she had no right to the pump.
Mr. Whiteley, the landlord, was called, and stated that there were two tenants on Dobroyd farm, and one pump for them, the care of which he gave to Mr. Beaumont, who had a right to prevent all who were not tenants from using the water. Sarah Beaumont, daughter of the defendant, said she saw the water thrown out of the cans. She had been to the complainant’s house some time since for 2d. towards paying for the repair of the pump, but she would not pay the money. Other witnesses were called, who spoke to the quarrel, and gave it as their opinion that the cause of it was the disputed 2d. After some consultation, the magistrates dismissed the case.
This fine old vintage postcard dates from the first decade of the twentieth century and features photographs of Nellie and Empsie Bowman, a couple of stage and music hall stars of the era. Nellie and Empsie, along with a third sister Isa, were the daughters of Charles Andrew Bowman, a music teacher, and Helen Holmes. All three girls were actresses during the late Victorian period, and all three became friends of the writer Lewis Carroll after a young Isa Bowman played a part in a stage production of Alice In Wonderland. The relationship between Isa and Carroll has been written about and dissected at length, but there has been less focus on the lives of her two other sisters. All three sisters maintained at least a contact with acting, and together they had a small part as “eccentric old ladies” in the 1948 film “Vote For Huggett“
My card has no message, just an address and a 1904 postmark. No message is needed, however, there is a story enough for anyone in the lives of the two girls on the front of the card.
I reach into an old box of 35mm colour slides and pull out three random slides for scanning, all of which date from the 1960s.
Fircroft College, Birmingham : September 1968
The first was taken in the Autumn of 1968 and shows my bedroom at Fircroft College in Birmingham complete with Cuban posters and a picture of Karl Marx that was a constant feature of the cork pin-boards that framed all our student lives.
John & Doris Burnett 1967
The second was probably taken a year earlier at the Bradford home of my Uncle John and Aunty Doris – and their dog which has to remain nameless as my memory fails me. We always think of the sixties as an era of flower-power – but old photographs suggest that the flowers tended to be limited to the wallpaper and the chair covers.
Gladys, Albert, Norma, Roger and Diana Burnett 1965
The third photograph is easy to date because it shows my niece, Diana, as a baby, and she was born in 1965. The photograph almost has the look of an early “selfie” and one can almost imagine a selfie-stick – complete with mobile phone – extending from Norma’s hand. But this was the age of immobile Bakelite phones and crouching photographers – in this case, me.
Photographs are the bookmarks of life: they are there to remind us of passages that are important for one reason or another. I have a feeling that there will be all sorts of reasons why I remember the summer of 2018, but, for the moment, it will be the weather. Even if it now rains for forty days and forty nights, it will still be the summer of bright sun and blue skies.
Both these photographs were taken yesterday: the first at Almondbury, the second at Stainland: suitable bookmarks indeed for the summer of ’18.
This isn’t really a “Picture from Nowhere” because I know it is a photograph of children at South Crosland Junior School in Huddersfield and, I would guess, it was taken in the nineteen forties or early fifties. They are, however, faces from nowhere – young faces that went somewhere in life.
During the 19th Century there was a great tradition of building Mechanic’s Institutes in the towns and villages of the industrial north of England. Not only were these centres for adult education, cultural enrichment, and political debate; they were also fine buildings in their own right. A small number still pursue their original function, but most have been converted for other uses.
I walked passed the one in Stainland, near Halifax, a couple of days ago. It is an outstanding building which is now appears to be used for accommodation.
Pigeons In Ruperra
This is an intriguing little photograph (just six by four centimetres) from a tiny album of photographs I bought on what we in Yorkshire call t’internet. All the photographs date from 1931 and 1932 and were taken in and around Ruperra Castle in Wales. At the time, the castle was owned by Evan Morgan, 4th Baron and 2nd Viscount Tredegar who was a noted eccentric and poet who had interests in the occult. He also had a circle of famous friends from the world of the arts and entertainment – including Aldious Huxley, Lord Alfred Douglas, Augustus John, Nancy Cunard and H.G. Wells. At the time of this photograph (April 30 1931) Morgan used Ruperra Castle for weekend gatherings of his “set”. I have no idea who the man featured in the photograph is, but the picture is captioned, “Duke, Ruperra”.
During World War II, Morgan joined M15 where he was given the suitably eccentric task of monitoring the flight of carrier pigeons. He seemingly let slip departmental secrets to two Girl Guides (you couldn’t make this up!) and he was court-martialed out of the service.
A walk around Sheffield, thirty years ago courtesy of a strip of negatives I scanned today.
The River Don from Lady’s Bridge, with the old Exchange Brewery on the left hand side. Until 1961, the brewery was owned by Tennants, who then became part of the Whitbread empire. These days all traces of the brewery are gone, other than the name of the district – full of plate-glass businesses and loft apartments – which is Riverside Exchange.
The Ship Inn on Shalesmoor, Sheffield, is still there and, if anything, looks better now than it did thirty years ago. The style is known as “Tomlinson’s Tiled” and, at one time, could be seen widely throughout South Yorkshire. Now it is verging on a tourist attraction.
A timeless picture of Crookes Valley Park completes the emulsified triptych. The boating lake was once one of the reservoirs supplying drinking water to the population of Sheffield. Now it supplies leisure water for boat trips and fishing expeditions.