Saturday, July 28, 2018

Winking At A Carpenter




At a meeting of the Old Gits Luncheon Club the other day we got to talking - as one does when you've had a pint or two - about the latest developments in geo-positioning technology. There is now a system available, it appears, which has assigned a three word code to every three metre square on planet earth; and the good news is that the three words are in English! Some suggests that these three word addresses will soon replace old fashioned approaches such as postcodes and grid references. In particular, the precision and simplicity of the three word system - it is suggested - makes it ideal for use in drones and other robotic delivery systems.

We were anxious to discover how old fashioned technologies such as picture postcards would be able to cope, so, as an experiment, it was agreed that I would attempt to send a postcard to another Git member using only the What3Word code for his front door. Would the Royal Mail be able to work out what was happening and interpret the address? 
One of the great advantages of the system is that the three word code is, theoretically, much easier to remember that a complex and lengthy numerical grid reference. Equally it is far more precise than a post code that can cover half a street. One problem, however is that the three words are random and therefore not sequential. The front door of my fellow Git is at carpentry.wink.printouts, but the code for his front room will be something entirely different. Therefore, if you make the slightest error in transposing the code you can send your drone/card/nuclear warhead to entirely the wrong place. In my first attempt to write is address I mistakenly put carpentry.winks.printouts which turns out to be in the middle of the jungle just north of Ouagadougou in Burkino Faso!

I will let you know if the card ever arrives at its intended destination. In the meantime, if you would like to find out more about the system and discover your unique three word location code, you can do so by going to the What3Words website.




Wednesday, July 25, 2018

When Boris Says Turn

When Boris Says Turn

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It was a time of political chaos, when the Government of Britain was wracked by internal divisions and factions. Cabinet meetings were characterised by open hostility and serial resignations, and the Prime Minister seemed to stand back and watch the fighting so as not to alienate one faction or another. The issues being argued about were Britain’s place in the world and it’s trading relations with other countries – issues that were essentially economic but which had become lost beneath a jingoistic cloak of patriotism and colonialism. Leading politicians involved in the struggle would change positions with alarming regularity, creating confusion amongst their supporters and a degree of dismay amongst the wider electorate. It would all eventually end in political tears for many of the people involved.
Sounds familiar? It was, of course, the summer of 1903. Joseph Chamberlain – that champion of Liberal free trade who had recently become a convert to the idea of tariffs and Imperial Preference – had resigned from the Government. Whilst he was no longer a member of the cabinet, he was still a powerful political player and his son, Austen Chamberlain, remained in the cabinet to represent his cause. The Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour, content to stand back and try to gauge which way the wind was blowing, was rendered useless and went on to lose the General Election in 1906.
Now, we tend to look back on the events of 1903 and ask, “What on earth was it all about?” When the country should have been concentrating on modernising its industrial structure and improving the social conditions of its population, it wasted its time with a sterile argument between politicians who were championing their own fanciful ideas. We can look at old vintage postcards of the period like the one above, and shake our twenty-first century heads and say, “what a waste“.
I am not trying to suggest that current events are an exact repeat of the ridiculous arguments of 115 years ago. After all, there is one big difference: there are no political postcards this time around.
Vintage Post Card : When Father Says Turn

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Up And Down Bold Street With Arthur Medrington

Up And Down Bold Street With Arthur Medrington

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Arthur Stanhope Medrington opened an artist studio at 128 Bold Street in Liverpool in the late 1870s. Like so many jobbing artists of the time, his work was largely confined to providing relatively cheap portraits of Victorian middle class families – the type of work and the type of market that the new invention of photography was ideally suited for. By the mid 1880s his work was primarily as a photographer and he opened up a new studio (the Grand Electric or Daylight Studio) at the other end of Bold Street at No. 29. He was later joined in business by his younger brother, Charles Edward, and they continued in business well into the twentieth century.
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This particular Carte-de-Visite from my collection must date from the 1880s when Arthur was still styling himself as an “Art Photographer and Portrait Painter” and his studio is clearly seen on the reverse of the card as being at 29, Bold Street. Where the address on the front of the card – 20 Bold Street – comes from, heavens only knows, perhaps as a result of an annoying printing error. To add to the confusion, the reverse of the card also suggests that he was previously at 33, Bold Street: quite clearly Arthur Medrington was up and down Bold Street like the adjustable legs of a tripod!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Pin And Chain

Pin And Chain

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Unknown Man (1920s)
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.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Great Stainland Water Fight

The Great Stainland Water Fight

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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.
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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.
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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. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Nellie, Empsie And A Carroll Connection

Nellie, Empsie And A Carroll Connection

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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
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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.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Crouching Photographer, Hidden Dog

Crouching Photographer, Hidden Dog


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 Room
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
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 & Di
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.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Bookmarks For The Summer of '18

Bookmarks For The Summer Of ’18

Cricket At Almondbury Wes
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.
Wild Flowers - Stainland Rec
Both these photographs were taken yesterday: the first at Almondbury, the second at Stainland: suitable bookmarks indeed for the summer of ’18.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Mechanical Pigeons From Nowhere

Faces From Nowhere

South Crosland Junior School (1940s)
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.

Mechanical History


Stainland Mechanics Institute
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.
Stainland Mechanics Institute
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

The Duke At 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.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Exchanging Ships For Rowing Boats

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.