Monday, June 24, 2019

The Girl With The Awfully Big Hat

An old photo, not much bigger than a postage stamp, pasted to the cover of an old album. But who is the girl with the awfully big hat? Facial recognition rides to the rescue.

The tiny photograph was pasted onto the back page of the postcard album of my mother's uncle, Fowler Beanland. It was only when the print was scanned and cleaned up that I begun to fully appreciate it for the charming portrait that it was: a picture of a little girl with an awfully big hat. Given that it had pride of place in Fowler's album, the chances were that it was a family member - but which one? Fowler never married and had no children of his own, but there were a good many nieces who could potentially fit the bill. I have never been very good with faces, but even to me there seemed something vaguely familiar about that slightly quizzical look.  

Luckily, these days, most photographic programmes come with some form of facial recognition software, and therefore I was able to submit the girl with the awfully big hat to Adobe Lightroom for a considered judgement, and Lightroom quickly came up with a very definite suggestion. The young girl is Amy Beanland, my mother's sister, and favourite niece of Fowler Beanland.

Amy was very much a woman of the twentieth century. She was born in Keighley in 1904 - which means this photograph must have been taken in about 1909 - and eventually died in 2001 in Scarborough. Between these two dates she managed three husbands and a lifetime of experience. The girl with an awfully big hat had an awfully full life.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Sepia Saturday : Up On The Rails

The common feature in these three photographs is, of course, the railings. Our Sepia Saturday theme image dates from 1910 and shows three young men taking a break from the "Bleach Room" where they work. They relax on some metal railings next to a river. The other two photographs feature my Auntie Miriam, and date from a holiday she and her husband, Frank, took in the Isle of Man in 1947. Frank was always the complete captioner, and therefore we know that both photographs were taken in Port St Mary which is on the south of the island. The first is titled "Chapel Bay" whilst the second one has the title "The Two Bays".  Given the post-war date, Miriam was lucky to find any metal railings to lean against - so many items of public metalwork had been acquired by the Government during the war to melt down into aircraft parts!

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

Friday, June 21, 2019

Here's One For You, Roger

I am putting my house in order, sorting out my affairs, scanning my life. My approach is a random one: scanning whatever happens to come to hand. What came to hand today was a colour slide from, I suspect, 1967. It shows my brother Roger, his wife Norma, and their daughter, my niece, Diana, walking through a typical West Yorkshire landscape.

Monochrome Valley

This is an illustration from a book I have yet to write, which - in my own mind, at least - is entitled "Monochrome Valley".  It shows Bank Bottom in Halifax in the early 1970s. Square Church spire and  Halifax Parish Church fight to be seen through the industrial smoke. I have a feeling that I took this photograph from the loading bay of Riding Hall Carpets, where I was working at the time.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

News From Nowhere : 19th June 2019

This is a new scan of a photograph I took over 50 years ago, and it shows the Halifax Charity Gala parade in 1965 passing the old Ramsden’s Stone Trough Brewery building (RIP) at Ward’s End, with the ever-present Victoria Theatre in the mid-distance.


This is a somewhat colourful picture postcard of the Victoria Hall in Halifax which dates from the first decade of the 20th century. Such cards were hand-coloured, and one can suppose that the colourful imagination of the colourist got the better of them on this occasion.

The card was sent to Mr G H Smith of Nettleton Street in Ossett. I have been able to trace Harvey Smith in the 1911 census (he was a rag merchant not the famous equestrian rider of sixty years later), but I can't find a G H Smith at that address. The closest match is one Harold Smith who would have been just ten years old when the card was posted, and thus more likely to have been addressed as Master G H Smith. People were forced to grow up quickly back in those days, however; Harold Smith went on to fight in the Great War during which he was awarded the Romanian Military Medal for Distinguished Service! That, no doubt, is another story.


Fowler's postcard collection features a fair number of picture postcards of Rochdale - where his sister seems to have been living - but this one was posted in the Lancashire town of Oldham and comes from his cousins, J&M Clifford. Given the fact that we know their names, their address and that they are cousins of Fowler Beanland, you would imagine that it would be relatively easy to connect them to the Beanland family tree, but I haven't managed to do it yet.

The message on the reverse of the card is as follows:-

7, Broadbent St, Watershead, Oldham. January 1906
Dear Cousin, Just a line to say we are just alive. Your cousin Mary has been ill seven weeks with Rheumatic, she is rather better now, that is the reason why I have not written you before, hope you are quite well as we remain your afc cousins, J&M Clifford.

Friday, June 14, 2019

News From Nowhere 14 June 2019

This News From Nowhere blog has been appearing for thirteen years now, and every so often I like to change one or two things. The changes are usually short-lived, and I normally revert to the tried and trusted format after a week or two. However, a change is better than a rest, so for the next week or so I will be experimenting with a slightly different approach. I can't accurately describe the new approach yet, because I haven't worked out what it will be ... but here goes!


We went to Bradford yesterday to waste a bit of time, do a little shopping, and look at some lovely buildings. There is such a grandeur to the Victorian buildings that adorn so many northern towns and cities, a beauty that can only be fully appreciated whilst aimlessly wandering the streets and looking upwards. I was able to marry the building-watching with the shopping, when we visited Waterstones book shop, which is situated within the monumentally beautiful Wool Exchange building, and I bought a copy of George Sheeran's "Bradford in 50 Buildings". This book is destined to be the stimulus for many more visits to the city of my birth, especially as the selection of buildings is not limited to the "great and the good" of the city centre. The four images above are not from the book, but from my own aimless wanderings.


This postcard dates from the first decade of the twentieth century and shows the familiar frontage of, what was, Heath Grammar School, on Free Schools Lane, Halifax. Although the school dates back to the 16th century, the building as depicted on this postcard will only have been thirty or so years old when the photograph was taken. Constructed in 1878-9, it was purposely designed to reflect the Elizabethan origins of the school itself. Heath Grammar School merged with the nearby Crossley And Porter School in the 1980s and classes eventually moved to the larger site at the top of Saville Park. The building, which is Grade II listed, is now used for a variety of education-related purposes including both primary and adult education.


My interest in vintage postcards started sixty or more years ago when, as a child, I would be taken to visit my mother's Uncle Fowler. Whilst the grown-ups talked, I would look through the album of old picture postcards he had. When he died, the album came to my mother, who - knowing my interest in it - passed it on to me. Those old postcards, collected by Fowler in the early 1900s, became the core of what became a larger collection, as I added postcards I would find in second-hand shops over the years. It is time, I think, to try and bring the collection back together in digital form. Fowler is pictured above - a photograph that was stuck in the back of the album. The postcards were in no particular order in the album, nor will they be in this digital collection.


For much of the time that Fowler Beanland was collecting old postcards - the first decade of the twentieth century - he was living in Longtown, Cumbria. He had moved there following the failure of the short-lived business he had established with his father and elder brother in his home town of Keighley. He was a spindle-maker and iron-turner by trade, and he may well have been employed in that capacity in the Longtown area.

The card had been sent to Fowler at his address in Longtown (48 Swan Street) and it came from someone else in the same town. The message - even when turned around by 180 degrees - is curious in the extreme.
"You was doing it fine on Sunday thought no one ___ you, 
A Looker On"
What the missing word is, I have no idea!


In the past, I have featured quite a few Victorian photographs from the studio of Edward Gregson, but Gregson's wasn't the only photographic studio in Halifax. In the second half of the nineteenth century, photographic studios were appearing all over the country, in every village, and in every part of every town: they were the nail bars or the Turkish barbers of their time. The firm of Davis and Sons was established in 1882 on Silver Street, moving, a few years later, to Cornmarket. This little Carte de Visite is a great example of their work - it's a photograph any photographer would be happy to produce in this modern day.


It is my birthday today, so it is a perfect excuse for a birthday selfie. This photograph - and no, it is not a selfie - must have been taken almost sixty years ago, and I am pictured on the brow of the appropriately named Lunevale, which was the ferry that ran from Fleetwood to Knott End. it was all a very long time ago.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Dark Forgotten Mills

A strip of medium format negatives dating from the 1980s is the next to go on my scanning machine. I took these photographs whilst on a walk down Shaw Lane in Halifax, at a time of transition for the town. The last of the mills that had been at the heart of the economic and social life of the town for the previous one hundred and fifty years were closing down and there was an almost desolate feel to parts of the town: streets were empty, building abandoned - almost as if life had moved out and moved on. The soot - that preserved footprint of the industrial revolution - still coated the stone walls and chimneys of the dark forgotten mills.

Thirty or forty years on, the buildings still stand but they have a new vibrancy about them. What were industrial graveyards are now art spaces, dance studios, and retail units. Life has returned and reclaimed the infrastructure. 

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Walking Man With Blue Spots

Back in the days when picture postcards were all the rage and the demand for colour photographs outstripped the technological ability to be able to deliver them, monochrome photographs were hand coloured. Most were done with skill and care, but occasionally short cuts were taken. It was nearly going-home time and the weekend was just around the corner. It was just a photograph of a "modern business block" in Ravenna, Ohio. Surely nobody would ever notice the walking man with the blue spots.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

A Casual Cigarette And The Weight Of History

There is something of the 1930s about this week's Sepia Saturday theme image, which shows W H Auden and Christopher Isherwood in 1938. There is something about the clothing, the styles, the casual cigarettes, the impending weight of history, which I think is reflected in my own contribution to our weekly photographic meme.

My photograph shows Wilfred and Amy Sykes, my uncle and aunt, and was probably taken in the mid 1930s. Amy - my mother's sister - had been born in 1904, and she went on to live a long life which more than matched the century itself. Although her husband, Wilf, died in the early 1960s, she was to marry and survive two further husbands, before eventually dying in 2001 in a nursing home in Scarborough. She led the kind of life that Arnold Bennett would have written well about, full of the domestic challenges and privations that must have been familiar to that generation. Although I knew Auntie Amy well in later life, I can't help feeling that she was one of those people who was particularly suited to the 1930s: and it would have been interesting to drop in on her during that decade, and share her hopes and dreams and, of course, fears. In the absence of time travel, looking at this old photograph provides me with the best  opportunity of doing that.

You can see how other people are interpreting this week's Sepia Saturday theme by going to the Sepia Saturday Website and following the links.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Coincidence At Clark Bridge Mills

A strange set of coincidences took me on a virtual trip to Clark Bridge Mills in Halifax yesterday. It started with my never-ending quest to prune my bookshelves - the Good lady Wife keeps threatening to bring in a structural engineer as she believes that the beams and floorboards can no longer support the weight of books. One volume under consideration for the knackers yard of literature (aka the Charity Book Shop) was a slim volume entitled "British Trademarks of the 1920s and 1930s", by John Mendenhall. On review, the book was far too slim and far too interesting to be consigned to ignominy, so there is no point searching your local Oxfam shop for my copy - it remains on my straining shelves for future reference. The review process I use is a complex one, and one that has resulted from many years of experimentation: I sit down with a mug of tea and a chocolate biscuit and randomly browse the contents of the book in question. Whilst doing so I came across the illustration reproduced above, which was a trade mark used by the firm Patons & Baldwins of Clark Bridge Mills, Halifax in 1927. Whilst Patons and Baldwins is a name I am familiar with as being a well known manufacturer of knitting yarns, I wasn't familiar with their link to Halifax, so I did some digging. 

Clark Bridge Mills were just below the Parish Church and were the original home of J&J Baldwins, which later became Patons & Baldwins. The mills were damaged by flooding in 1914 and by fire in 1925, so before pestilence could descend on the undertaking, Patons & Baldwin moved to Darlington, where they built the world's largest knitting yarn factory. The mill was eventually demolished in 1980, and now the Halifax branch of Matalan occupies part of the site.

Yesterday evening I was sorting through some of my old negatives - films I had shot in the 1970s and 1980s, and by complete coincidence I came across one I had captioned "Demolition site, near Bailey Hall, Halifax, 1980", which includes my father in the foreground, gazing wistfully towards Bailey Hall, his former workplace. It didn't take me long to work out that the building being demolished in my photograph was Clark Bridge Mills.

The third coincidence only hit me later when I realised that Clark Bridge Mills had gone under a different name between 1945 when it was abandoned by Patons & Baldwin, and 1980 when it was demolished. It was known as Riding Hall Mill, and was the home of the carpet manufacturer of that name. No wonder the mill had a familiar feel about it, for I worked there for a time in the early 1970s. So what started with a sheep's head and went via a demolished mill, ended up with a little bit of my own personal history. What a coincidence at Clark Bridge Mills.