Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Bumpers All! To Peace And Goodwill!

All my good intentions to devote some time to my blogging activities before Christmas have been buried under a pyroclastic flow of wrapping paper, greetings cards, and miscellaneous seasonal duties. Good intentions have now been postponed until the new year. All that remains is for me to find a glass of something suitably refreshing and raise it, as I wish you all the very best seasonal greetings. As Mr Punch so eloquently put it; "Bumpers All! To Peace And Goodwill"

Friday, December 16, 2016

Drinking Blackberry Tea With Toby Twirl And Friends

I received a Christmas card from my brother yesterday. This is an event worthy of note in that I have never received a Christmas card from him before. Indeed, in the email accompanying the card (if truth be told it was a digital card), he freely confesses that this is the first Christmas card he has ever sent to anyone in all of his 74 years! He went on to consider the wisdom of sending me a card featuring one of his paintings, but given that his work usually features the naked human body (you can get an idea by visiting his blog), he decided on a rather decorative book cover for the card.

As soon as I saw it, childhood memories were released like corks out of a bottle of vintage champagne. I had this book when I was a child and in the intervening six hundred years I had forgotten all about Toby Twirl (think of him as the poor man's Rupert Bear) and his pals Ely the Elephant and Pete the Penguin. I was just thinking to myself of his serendipitous discovery of an image of a book that I used to own, when I noticed a second image of the inside page.

Quite clearly, the book had been purloined and re-assigned to Trina, one of his lovely daughters. But this is Christmas, and I forgive everyone their sins (although I might make a few exceptions in the political sphere). The stories were always written in rhyming couplets and my brother tells me that he has added one to the final page.

“Oh yes!” said Uncle Ali, and hugged her hard.
“Well, come along,” said she.
“It’s getting late, so let’s go home
And have a blackberry tea.”

This seems a most appropriate addition to the text. Happy Christmas to all my family in Dominica, the Virgin Islands, and the UK.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Coincidence Of Stone Sets

These two back street came together by chance. They are more years than miles apart - I took the first in Bradford back in the 1960s and the second in Batley last week. The first one is a rescan of an old negative which, by chance, came to the top of my pile of old negatives to revisit. The second was going to be my submission for today's Picture Post. The coincidence of stone sets connected them, so who am I to break them apart?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Stone Faces Of Batley

It would seem that the burghers of Batley couldn't design a building without appending a stone face to it. They would work their way through the Kings and Queens, the angels and the goddesses; decorating every pediment with a stone likeness. Once the human face-pool had been exhausted, they would turn their attention to the animal kingdom. Cats and monkeys, imps and griffins would all find themselves captured by the stonemasons' chisel. At one time they would look down the fashionable streets and smile knowingly as the shoddy merchants gathered their rags and lined their pockets. Over time the black soot coated the sandstone at about the same rate as the profits accumulated. The buildings have been cleaned, but most of them have lost their purpose along with their grime. Shoddy has become a description of the town rather than its' industry. The smiles of the stone faces are slowly morphing into frowns.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Postcards From Home : Pixie On The Rocks

To : Miss 'Pixie' Piggall,
Stalham, Station Road, Fratford, Herts.
16 January 1906
I missed your letter dear, but hope by now you are quite well and able to write anything, even lessons. What a jolly Xmas you gave the Uncles. Love from Auntie Annie.

What on earth Pixie did in order to give everyone such a jolly Christmas will have to be left to the imagination. Let us, instead, concentrate on the scene on the front of this 1906 vintage postcard which shows the famous Halifax landmark called "The Rocks".

"The Rocks" are a large outcrop of millstone grit which provide wonderful views over the Calder valley and are situated a couple of miles from the centre of Halifax. Such natural spectacles became popular in Victorian times, as people from the towns began to rediscover the natural wonders that could be found if they ventured out into the countryside. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, a series of paths were laid through the woods that clung to the valley side below the rocks and a formal promenade was laid out at the top of the valley above the rocks. This, of course, was named Albert Promenade after the late Prince Albert. Victorian and Edwardian families would take walks above and below the rocks and thrill at their scale and beauty, and Victorian and Edwardian children would attempt to climb up the rocks as far as they could before being called back by anxious parents.

I knew this part of Halifax well, because my school was close by (just off the right hand side of this picture). It was one of those schools that took a delight in making the boys play rugby - a game I have always taken a distinct dislike to. A few more boys and myself would manage to avoid the weekly game by not being picked for either of the two competing teams - the blues and the wasps. In order to avoid being picked you had to carefully nurture a reputation for being particularly bad at the game - a challenge which I took to like a duck to warm water. The handful of kids who were not picked for either team would be sent for a cross country run that was supposed to take them down through the rocks, along the valley bottom, up the other side and then down and back up again.

At half time during the blues v the wasps rugby match the sports teacher would walk to the top of the rocks with a pair of binoculars and attempt to follow our progress up and down the valley side. He was never very successful in this as we were normally huddled up in a cave just under the rock upon which he stood, enjoying an illicit cigarette. Perhaps Pixie Piggall had bought he uncles a box of Havana cigars and they had gone to the self same cave for a Boxing Day smoke. Who knows?

Friday, December 02, 2016

Sepia Saturday 346 : Happy Christmas Roger

The wonderful thing about the theme image for Sepia Saturday 346 is that it is so full of potential prompts: you can find a link to almost anything within it. To test the theory out, I closed my eyes and dipped into the un-scanned family photo box to see what came out. 

And what came out was a photograph of my brother Roger and myself which must, I suspect have been taken in the early 1950s.  It looks as though we were at the seaside, and if that is the case it will have either been New Brighton or Bridlington (for some reason my parents swapped their allegiances between the east coast and the west coast on an annual basis). My best bet would be that it was New Brighton (although I wouldn't be surprised if my brother writes it to tell me I have got the wrong time and the wrong place).

Returning to my challenge, there would appear to be several of the advent pictures I could pair my holiday snap up with, but - since this is the season of goodwill - I am going to go with the one which appears to feature a group of little angels with a town in the background. I am not sure which potentially stretches the bounds of credulity the furthest: the depiction of my brother and myself as little angels or the idea that New Brighton would make a suitable location for such a festive scene.

For many years now, Roger has lived on the other side of the world and we have never been into sending Christmas cards to each other. This year I am happy to make an exception - and this, therefore, is my Christmas card to him. Happy Christmas Rog.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Six Monasteries Hourly Are Saying A Mass

There is an old Flanders and Swan song called "Bed".  Compared to most of their songs, it is relatively unknown - I can find neither a YouTube video nor the lyrics of it - but it is one of my favourites. In it, Flanders sings of the multiple delights of "bed", and there is a short verse than goes (as far as I remember) like this:

"Six monastery's hourly are saying a mass,
For a distant relation, now dead.
Who left me a blanket, electric no less,
No an integral part of my bed"

The other day, a delivery man knocked on my door and handed me a very large, and very heavy, parcel. It came not from a distant relation, but from a close friend, who certainly isn't dead, and it contained something far more useful than an electric blanket. It was nothing less than an advent calendar, but a rather special one as can be imagined by the greeting on the box - "Hoppy Christmas"

The box contains twenty-five bottles of real ale, one for each day up until Christmas Day. I look forward to the coming month with more anticipation than I have since being a Father-Christmas believing child. Cheers Mark: I have requested a thanksgiving mass to be said in at least six monasteries.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Edwardian Ladies And The Manchester Ship Canal

This is a scan of a glass negative I acquired on eBay, and for once I have a little information about it, as it arrived with the description "Edwardian ladies with decorative hats in Hastings". The hats are indeed spectacular (one is almost reminded of African ladies who carry great jugs of water on their heads), but it is the faces that capture my immediate attention.

And then, once I focus in, my attention is grabbed by the municipal instruction, crafted in finest brass and screwed into place: "Please Do Not Spit". I remember someone once telling me about the public announcements that used to be featured on the upper deck of trams in Manchester. Some were public health announcements whilst others would urge to public to make full use of the municipally controlled transport infrastructure. On one such tram, two such notices had appeared next to each other at the front of the tram. "Do Not Spit" declared one, whilst its' neighbour admonished people to "Use The Ship Canal".

Monday, November 28, 2016

For Everything There Is A Season In The Sun

For everything there is a season and it just so happens that the season for producing enough 2017 calendars to fill the Christmas stockings of a range of friends and family members is the last week in November (especially if you are a tight-fisted Yorkshire chap and want to take advantage of the Black Friday deals from the digital publishers). That is the reason why my various blogs have been neglected for the last couple of weeks. Now the calendars are designed and the orders have been submitted, so I have time to return to the pressing business of the pointless and inconsequential. 

And what can be more inconsequential that old photographs of unknown people. Here are two old photographs I bought from the same second-hand stall. I have no idea who either group are or where they were when they had their photographs taken. Quite clearly, they inhabited different levels of the Victorian or Edwardian social spectrum - but I suspect that the photographs were taken at around the same time.

Other than that, they are not related in any way. But they have most probably sat next to each other in the box on the counter of the second-hand shop for years. Maybe they had time to get acquainted, to share experiences, to swap hopes and fears. Their pigments faded and their corners got creased and folded, but they would eventually share a season in the sun.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Tidy Room And A Tired Brain

I am still trying to come to terms with all that has been happening in the world this year - and I have decided that the most logical response is to tidy my room. I suspect that this might have been the genetic response to times of stress and danger of us Burnetts and Beanlands over the centuries. When the lights were going out all over Europe, Fowler Beanland probably sorted out his postcard collection. When Hitler's tanks pounded their way through the low countries, Enoch Burnett would have been tidying up his tool shed. 

During my bout of tidying, I rediscovered the pack of early snap cards produced by Spears Games. They are advertised as "a most diverting game with beautiful coloured cards of grotesque characters", and one card seemed to be particularly appropriate for the events of 2016. I will leave it up to you to identify the snake - there are enough potential candidates about.

Another discovery was an old advert for Sanaphos. I have not been feeling quite 100% recently and I have put it down to a cold (manflu).  But now I know what the problem is - I am suffering from a tired brain. Once I have rested it with a short afternoon nap, I will start trying to track down a supply of Sanaphos.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A History Of My Family In 100 Images : 4. What God Will And The Missing Berries

The fourth cardinal point of my family history is Isobel's father's family - the Berrys. As with most family trees, there is a branch that yields fewer easy pickings for the amateur genealogist, and with my family - despite the branch name - it is the Berrys. From the point of view of where we now live, they are the most local family - the local parish records show a WhatGodWill Berry being born in 1730 no more than a mile from where we now live - and it is still a family name that is well represented locally. It is just that nobody in the family seems to have saved family photographs, or if they did, they got handed down to someone else. My photograph is a Berry by marriage: it shows Sarah Ann Shaw, the mother of Raymond Berry, who was Isobel's father. In 1905, she married Kaye Holroyd Berry, Isobel's grandfather, and they lived together in the local town of Elland until their deaths over fifty years later.

Despite the shortage of photographs, the Berry/Shaw line is a fascinating element of the wider story of my family, containing some of the most colourful characters and some of the most tragic stories. There are, however,  a further 96 images to go so I will save some of these stories for further down the line.

Let us limit ourselves for the moment to some very basic facts about Sarah Ann Berry. She was born in Ripponden in 1876 and shortly after that, her family moved the few miles over the moors to settle in Elland. Like so many of the young people from these parts at the end of the nineteenth century, she worked in the local woollen mill, and by the time she was twenty-five appears to have given birth to at least two illegitimate children. Following her marriage to Kaye Berry - who himself had a somewhat colourful background - she had two further children, one of whom, Raymond Holroyd Berry, born in 1916, was Isobel's father.

It is a fascinating family history, and one I look forward to exploring in greater depth in the future. The ways that family fortunes ebb and flow over the generations is always an interesting story in itself. When I have looked back at  the parish records and seen that distant relative of the Berry family being christened "WhatGodWill", I have always assumed it was the result of some misunderstanding at the baptism ceremony - "What do you name this child? Oh, what God will". However, on reflection, considering the fortunes and misfortunes that were to await the family in the centuries to come, those ancient forebears were, perhaps, wiser than I thought.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Sunset Over Rational Enlightenment


That will teach me. Earlier this year, in June, I took a couple of weeks out to sail around the Baltic and when I got back I discovered that the UK had decided to conduct an experiment in suicidal idiocy.  Three or four months later I take a couple of weeks out to sail around the Canary Islands and when I get back I discover that the United States has signed up for Idiocy 101 as well. Well, that's it: a nod is as good as a wink to a blind donkey. All future holidays have been cancelled.  Sunset over Gran Canaria is a beautiful sight to behold, but sunset over rational enlightenment is a fearful sight indeed.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

All At Sea

For the next two or three weeks I am going to be all at sea. Our ship, alas, is not the delightfully named "Fako", but the good ship Oceana. We are sailing south from Britain in search of the sun, with stops in Madeira, the Canaries, Spain and Portugal. Whilst we are away, News From Nowhere will be celebrating it's tenth birthday with a quiet party, a few drinks, and a decent lie-in. When it returns - in the middle of November - it will be in its eleventh year. Happy birthday to my blog, best regards to all of you, and - calm seas for me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Four Pubs And A Tram-shed

The Bull’s Head, Mexborough, South Yorkshire
“Mr William Biggs, or 27, Wood Street, Mexborough, a highly prominent figure in variety of sporting circles at Mexborough upwards of 40 years ago, died yesterday at the age of 68. He was formerly licensee of the Bull's Head Hotel for 20 years, and there were very few sports in which he did not indulge with a considerable measure of success. Outside Mexborough he was perhaps most widely known as the man who trained “Iron” Hague to the heavyweight championship of England”.
Sheffield Independent, 23 September 1938

The Falcon, Mexborough, South Yorkshire
The Falcon was previously called “The Old Mason’s Arms”
“Wanted good clean maid for private work; age 35 to 40: good references - Apply Mrs Neath, Old Mason’s Arms, Mexborough, Near Rotherham”.
Yorkshire Post, 31 August 1929

The Noose And Gibbet Inn, Sheffield
The pub stands a few yards away from the site where the body of the highwayman, Spence Broughton, was left hanging for some thirty years as a deterrent to others who might be tempted to rob the mail coach. In 1792, Broughton’s body was brought from Tyburn in York and attracted considerable crowds - 40,000 people were reported to have viewed the body on the first day. Such crowds, of course, soon became hungry and thirsty and the local pubs did very well indeed from the spectacle. Broughton’s body was finally removed in 1827 after a complaint by the local landowner who was fed up of trespassers on his land.

Carbrook Hall, Sheffield
"Carbrook Hall is a historic house in Sheffield, England. Located in the Attercliffe district of the city, the original building was owned by the Blunt family from 1176. This was rebuilt in 1462, and was bought by Thomas Bright (Lord of the manor of Ecclesall) in the late 16th century. His descendant, John Bright, was an active Parliamentarian during the English Civil War, and the building was used as a Roundhead meeting place during the siege of Sheffield Castle. Most of the building was demolished in the 19th century, what survives is a Grade II listed stone wing that was added c. 1620. It is now used as a public house that claims to be "Sheffield's most haunted public house”. (Wikipedia)

Tinsley Tram-sheds, Sheffield
"Built in 1874 for the first horse-drawn tram service in Sheffield. In 1899 they were extended to house electric trams. In 1960 the last Sheffield tram terminated here". (Text of Blue Plaque)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Who Knows Where The Time Goes

Today's agenda featured a trip to the Meandowhall Shopping Centre in order to stock up with whatever will be needed for the next phase of our holidays. But four hours in what non-shoppers often call "Meadowhell" was too much of an undertaking for me, and therefore I managed to escape for a couple of hours and take a walk along the tow-path of the South Yorkshire Canal.

Some thirty-five years ago I undertook a few weeks teaching Economic and Social History at Rotherham College, a couple of miles east of what today is Meadowhall. Very quickly I realised that trying to teach the subject in a sterile lecture-room was a bit pointless and eventually took the entire class for a walk along the canal, in the belief that the existence, so close, of a living laboratory of British Economic and Social history was too good an opportunity to miss. And we saw it all: the steelworks, the little workshops, the large factories, the railways, roads and canals. I was anxious to discover how much had changed in thirty-five years.

And there were many changes. The rotting bedsteads had been replaced by pretty barges and the dark factories had become lush leisure opportunities. Sheds were now shops, cobbled tracks were now tiled malls. I walked for mile after mile along the tow-path, thinking about change and listening to Sandy Denny singing "Who Knows Where The Time Goes". It was my idea of a nice day out.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Buildings Ancient And Modern In Regent's Park

We were in London last week to celebrate The Lad becoming a Member of the Royal College of Physicians. It was a glorious few days: the weather was kind, the accommodation was excellent, the company was thoroughly enjoyable, and we had the benefit of being transported everywhere upon a cloud of intense pride. The ceremony itself was held in the headquarters of the Royal College of Physicians which is in Regent's Park. Whilst the Park is bordered by a ring of fine Georgian mansions, the RCP building stands out as being startlingly modern. Designed in 1964 by the architect Sir Denys Lasdun, it is one of the few post-war Grade 1 listed buildings in Britain. Feelings amongst our party about it were mixed, but as soon as I got into the building I was converted - the spectacular lines of the interior blended wonderfully with the immediate surroundings.

Before going to the ceremony, we walked in Regent's Park and paid a sentimental visit to St John's Lodge which used to be part of London University and was were Isobel studied back in the late sixties and early seventies. I managed to find an old photograph I took of the college back in those days, when it served as the Latin and Greek Departments of Bedford College. Later it was leased to the Sultan of Brunei and it is currently undergoing substantial renovations. 

Designed in 1812 by the architect John Ruffield, it was the first house to be built in the Park. Despite all that, the building has only ever achieved a Grade II listing status, making it very much second division when compared the glass and concrete of the physicians on the other side of the park.

Friday, October 14, 2016

A HISTORY OF MY FAMILY IN 100 IMAGES : Fending For Yourself In Liverpool

3. Fending For Yourself In Liverpool

For this third image we are switching from my immediate family to that of Isobel, my wife - specifically, her mothers' family, the Ushers of Liverpool. This is a partially repaired scan of an old memo sheet from what was the family firm - Usher Brothers, Ship's Fender Experts.

I cannot be entirely certain of either who features in the photograph or when it was taken: but I suspect that the older of the four men (second from the right) is Charles Frederick Usher, Isobel's maternal grandfather.

If that is indeed Charles Frederick ( 1867-1940), then it is likely that the other three are his eldest sons - in no particular order - Charles Frederick McKernon Usher (1892-1943); William Henry Whittingham Usher (1893-1949); and John Usher (1896-1954). 

The date is likely to be either just before or just after the first World War. The memo has been amended to remove the Dryden Road address - and we know that the firm was still listed at that address in Gore's Directory of 1911. Such dates also fit in with the perceived age of the four men: if the photograph had been taken in, for example 1914, Charles Frederick Senior would have been 47, and the three boys would have been 22, 21 and 18.

The "W H Usher" of whom the firm is descended from is William Henry Usher (1846-1905), Charles Frederick's father. William Henry had been a rope-maker with connections to both this part of Liverpool and Great Crosby, a town a few miles north of the city. When his father, Henry Usher, died in 1888, the firm seems to have split between the Great Crosby side of the family and the Liverpool side, and later Charles Frederick appears to have shifted the firm into rope fender making as distinct from rope-making itself.

All this is a little unclear and - like any good seafaring rope - the story consists of numerous strands that have been woven together with a fair degree of uncertainty and then coated with a rich layer of the pitch tar of time. It may be possible - before I reach the end of my 100 images - to unravel the story a little.

Such skilfully woven rope fenders have long been replaced by generations of rubber and plastic devices which can stop ships crashing into docks. In a few weeks time I will be getting on a large ship and sailing south to find some sun. As we dock in some semi-tropical paradise, I will look down at the harbour walls and spare a thought for those ancestors sat astride their ship's fender in dark and drizzly Liverpool. .... Then I will go and have a pleasant drink in the bar and give thanks for being born when I was.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Sepia Saturday 344 : The Fellow Travellers

Our Sepia Saturday theme this month is travel, and the odd chap who thinks these things up has given it the title "From Here To There". This is most appropriate for me, as I am in the process of travelling from here to there, and have been doing so for weeks. Of course the "here" and the "there" are constantly changing (today “here” is Huddersfield and tomorrow “there” will be London), and that feeling of not knowing quite where you are or where you are going to, is nicely summed up in this old photograph. It is a selective scan of an old photograph I acquired somewhere on my travels, and - as with all the best photographs - I have no idea who the people are. In the finest meaning of the phrase, they are fellow-travellers.

Have a look what everyone else is doing from here to there by following the links on the Sepia Saturday Blog

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

POSTCARDS FROM HOME : The Day The King Came To Town

The other day I bought a small collection old unused postcards dating back to October 1937 and commemorating the day the King and Queen visited Halifax. Just why they came to Halifax is unclear: it seems to be one ofd those occasional tours the royal family makes of distant parts of their empires, like Calgary, Christchurch and Cleckheaton. The King in question was George VI and he came with his wife, Elizabeth (who throughout most of my life I knew as "Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother") - the parents of the current Queen Elizabeth. They visited Shibden Hall, the splendid Elizabethan Hall - that is yet another Queen Elizabeth - I realise this is getting very confusing - that lies in the centre of Shibden Park, where they had lunch and then they had a civic reception at the town hall. It would appear that the photographs were taken by a staff photographer from the local Halifax Courier, and by a curious coincidence we are able to witness the event some eighty years later, thanks to a surviving film that is held by the Yorkshire Film Archives and available on the British Film Institute website

Watching the film is a bit like looking at a mirror which is reflected in another mirror. You can clearly see the photographer from the Courier taking the photographs that feature on these postcards - and you like to imagine that there was yet another photographer taking a photograph of the film-maker making a film of the photographer .... and so on into infinity. The two records - the film and the photographs - provide quite different interpretations of the day, and provide us with a fine example of the comparative values of both mediums in terms of preserving the past. Strangely enough, the film seems to be from a time much earlier than the photographs. Whilst the film contains far more raw information than the photographs - it is a bit like comparing a ton of topsoil with a handful of glass beads - both, in their own way, provide an opportunity to get under the skin of history. 

Photograph 1 : I would love to know what was behind the strange pose adopted by the King. Was his hand cold? Or was it a reaction to being forced to write right-handed, despite his natural left-handedness? 

Photograph 2 : The Mayoress has such a delightful name - and by the look of it, a quite appropriate one as well. Why is she looking so cross? 

Photograph 3 : The King again, with his hidden right hand, again. One can almost imagine the conversation : "I say old chap, your wife has just bitten my hand!" 

Photograph 5 : I have no idea what has happened to photograph 4 in the series. Perhaps that is the one that provides an explanation for the King's hidden hand and the cross expression on the face of the Lady Mayoress.

Monday, October 03, 2016

A HISTORY OF MY FAMILY IN 100 IMAGES - Working Class Edwardian Respectability

2. Working Class Edwardian Respectability

The second of my chosen images introduces the second of the four compass points that make up any family history, (and for the purposes of this exercise, my "family" is the extended family of both myself and my wife). We have already taken a first look at my fathers' immediate family, and now it is the turn of my mother's family, the Beanlands. And as our starting point we have a family photograph of almost the same vintage, dating, as it does, to either 1916 or perhaps 1917. It is a formal studio portrait which seems to portray the very nature of Edwardian prosperity and respectability : although Edward was long gone and the prosperity - if perhaps not the respectability - was merely a veneer. Despite their shining boots, gold watch chains and satin frocks, these were working class folk who were more familiar with the mills of West Yorkshire than they were with Edwardian tea parties. And as with many veneers, time has the habit of wearing away the surface to show what lies underneath.

At the time of the photograph, my grandfather, Albert Beanland, was in his early forties and living in the Princeville district of Bradford with his wife, Catherine, and two young daughters. By trade he was a mechanic who had experience working on all types of textile machines. He had not lived in Bradford for long, he had spent most of this first forty years living a few miles up the valley in Keighley, where his family had lived for several generations. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Albert's father, Fowler Beanland, and his two brothers, Arthur and Fowler Jnr went into business on their own account as manufacturers of textile wringing machines in the Worth Valley near Keighley. They took a lease on Lower Holme Mill and in the 1901 census, Fowler Snr and Fowler Jnr are listed as "Spindle Manufacturer"s, Arthur is listed as a "Spindle and Flyer Manufacturer". How this fits together with the official description of the firm, Fowler Beanland & Sons, as "Wringing Machine Manufacturers" is unclear. That official description comes from the Receiving Order which was issued in 1904 when the company went bankrupt. That event will have had a powerful impact on the family and meant that Albert spent his life working for others rather than working for himself. He died, in Bradford, in September 1948, a couple of months after I was born.

At the time of this photograph, my grandmother, Catherine - who was always known as Kate - will have been thirty none or forty years old. She had been married to Albert since April 1903 and had not had a job since her marriage, although before it she worked as a waitress in both coffee houses and pubs. And just like Albert's family bankruptcy must have had a powerful impact on the course of his life, Kate's early life was influenced by the death of her father, Albert, a grocer, when she was just fourteen years old. Although not yet forty at the time of this photograph she had lived in various parts of the country: she was born in Rutland, spent her childhood in Wales, and lived in Middlesborough and Leeds before eventually getting a job as a barmaid in Keighley. And it was there that she met Albert. Having moved to Bradford a few years before this photograph was taken, herb wandering life was at an end. She continued to live in the city until she died there in 1960, aged 83.

AMY BEANLAND (1904-2001)
Amy was Albert and Kate's first child and she would have been about twelve years old at the time of this photograph. Her story is a long and colourful one (and no doubt will feature in more detail in some of the other images that represent the history of my family. She was married three times - getting married for the last time when she was in her eighties - and lived well into her nineties, ending her life in a retirement home in Scarborough.

GLADYS BEANLAND (1911-2004) 
The "baby" of the picture is, of course, my mother, Gladys. Although she had been born in Keighley, the family had moved to Bradford when she was very young, so it was that city she always looked on as "home". She was married - to my father, Albert - in 1936 and her new family eventually moved the few miles south to Halifax in the early 1950s.. Towards the end of her life she moved another few miles south to the West Yorkshire town of Brighouse, and it was there that she died in July 2004 - on her ninety-third birthday.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Random Times : A Butterman, Some Onions, And The Great Eastern

RANDOM TIMES : 21 September 1863

Our Random Number Generated Time Machine has, this week, whisked us back close to the beginnings of time itself (well the beginnings of time as defined in this series), to September 1863, We have come to rest in the Port of Liverpool and our news is provided by the Liverpool Daily Post. Reading newspapers which are 150 years old highlights the tremendous social and economic changes that have taken place in that time. A week or two before our time machine landed, 100,000 people had gathered in Liverpool on a sunny afternoon to watch the public execution of four men. Earlier in the year, Queen Victoria's wayward son, Edward, had married Princess Alexandra of Denmark, But there were also the beginnings of some of the things that would go on to craft the very shape of the century and a half that followed: the first line of the London Underground system was opened, the Football Association was founded, and linoleum was patented. In Liverpool, Frank Hornby - the man who would go on to invent some of the most iconic toys of the twentieth century - was born.

For all those who bemoan modern newspapers for sacrificing news at the altar of advertising revenue, it is instructive to look back at the local newspapers of the time. What news there is, is hidden amongst column after column, and page after page of advertising. And what news there was, was dominated by events in America, where the Civil War was at its mid-point.

A Butterman, Some Onions, And The Great Eastern

Scattered around the pages of the Liverpool Daily Post are reports from America on the progress of the Civil War which had been taking place for over two years and, tragically, still had another two years yet to run. The idea of the news being "scattered" is quite appropriate: this is the age before instantaneous news could be beamed around the world. Whilst the telegraph system had been in commercial use for some thirty years by 1863, trans-Atlantic telegraph cables were still three years in the future. Thus for news of the progress of the Civil War, people were still dependent on despatches sent by sea, as can be seen by these two examples from the pages of the Daily Post.

The war in America was the major foreign news story of the period, but it had a special significance for Liverpool. That city was the major port for the trans-Atlantic trade and in particular the importation of cotton from the southern States. The war and the Union blockade of the Confederate States had a considerable impact on the local economy. The great shipowners were losing money and the shipbuilders were also suffering. Various attempts had been made to build ships that were intended for the Confederate Navy, but the ships had been seized by the British Government for being in breach of their policy of neutrality.

The interruption of supplies of cotton from America coincided with a widespread reversal in trading conditions and the two things together led to what became known as the "Lancashire Cotton Famine" of 1861-5. There was widespread unemployment and poverty amongst the textile workers of the county and relief efforts were established throughout the country (this is an example from the pages of the Daily Post of a relief society dedicating its efforts to the managers and overlookers of Preston. Despite the detrimental impact of the Civil War, cotton workers in Manchester supported the cause of the Union and its efforts to end slavery in the southern states.

The hindsight of history does not make everything clear! The meaning of this strange public announcement in the columns of the Daily Post remains a mystery, which, perhaps, is better not solved.

"Cleanliness is next to Godliness" was one of the axioms of the high Victorian period, but the 1860s were a time of great controversy over precisely how best to achieve such a state of near-Godliness. One of the main protagonists in this "heated" discussion was a certain Dr Barter, known as the "father of the Turkish Bath" The very idea that the "shores and sewers" of the human body must be flushed (at two shillings a time) is one that still attracts support in the twenty-first century.

When they were not flushing their personal sewers out, the residents of Liverpool were invited to buy a ticket for a day return trip to the Birmingham Onion Fair. This annual fair had been taking place since the eighteenth century and originally it provided an opportunity for city dwellers and country people from all around the Midlands to buy and sell agricultural produce: in particular that favourite delicacy of these parts, the onion. By the 1860s, the fair had almost outgrown its traditional home in the Birmingham Bull Ring and had become associated with every type of amusement, menagerie, and showmanship. Following protests by local shopkeepers it was eventually moved out of the centre of the city, but it was still active as an annual funfair well into the twentieth century.

Brunel's SS Great Eastern was the Branwell Bronte of the Brunel family of ships. Whilst the Great Western and the Great Britain went on to find fame and fortune and a permanent dry dock in history, the Great Eastern led a life punctuated by accident, failure and ignominy. She was built as the largest and most ambitious of the Brunel steam ships, intended for the long distance eastern voyages to India, China and Australia. Work started on building the ship in 1854 and as it was intended to be six times larger by volume than any ship then afloat, the task was a daunting one. The project was jinxed from the very outset: the company given the contract to build her went bankrupt, the launch failed, a boiler exploded on her maiden voyage, and the perceived market of voyages to the far east never materialised. Instead she joined the already overcrowded North Atlantic market sailing out of Liverpool, just at the point when trade with America was beginning to be badly affected by the Civil War. Even when she made trans-Atlantic voyages they tended to be plagued with bad fortune: as we can see, in September she ran into and sunk the ship, Jane. In January 1864 she was put up for sale, but nobody seemed to want to buy her and an idea was even floated to make her the prize in a public lottery (luckily, this came to nothing - what on earth could you do if you won a steamship in a lottery!). Eventually she was bought and leased to a company responsible for laying the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable The great ship that had been intended to carry passengers in luxury to the East, earned her keep by laying out cables on the bed of the Atlantic. At the end of her cable-laying career she was used as a floating billboard on the River Mersey for Lewis's Department Store before eventually being broken up in 1889, just thirty short years after her maiden voyage.

"Last night, about twenty minutes to nine o'clock, a young man of short stature, dressed in black, took a run on the Seacombe slip and plunged into the river. He was heard immediately to cry for help. A boat was put off to his assistance, but no trace of him could be discovered" Comment, on some occasions, is quite superfluous.

What finer way to finish than with a concert by the "Yorkshire Queen of Song", Mrs Susannah Sunderland? She was born in Brighouse (just a mile or so from where I am writing this) in 1819 and her singing ability was first noted by the local blacksmith. She went on to perform throughout Yorkshire, and as the expanding railway system made travel easier, her fame was recognised throughout the land. When she sang for Queen Victoria in London, the Queen is supposed to have said, "I may be Queen of England, but you are the Queen of song ", and she carried the tag-line throughout her career. The performance in September 1863 was, indeed' her last in Liverpool: she retired from singing the following year. A famous singing competition - the “Mrs Sunderland Competition" still takes place in Huddersfield in her memory.

Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...