Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Daily Victorian : A Working Man From Brighouse

Today, our Daily Victorian has the look of a working man about him. Class can be an important aid in dating early photographs : in the 1850s the subjects tended to be the famous, in the 1860s and 1870s it was the rich and then the middle classes, and by the 1880s and 1890s prices had fallen and a studio portrait was within the means of working people. In this case, the studio was that of W Dawson of Brighouse. This particular example refers to studios in Waring Green, which is no more than a mile from Brighouse town centre, but I have also found reference to a studio on Huddersfield Road in Brighouse itself. I know nothing else about Mr Dawson, except that he was a competent Victorian photographer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Daily Victorian : Under Distinguished Patronage in Sheffield

If you take a man away from his desk for a week and isolate him in the Scottish wilderness with nothing to do other than sample rare malt whisky, he gets to thinking up new projects he can embark on when he returns to the safety of his study. For some reason, I decided to catalogue my collection of Victorian carte de visites and share them in the form of a Daily Victorian. It is a silly and pointless exercise (which is what attracted me to it in the first place), but one you will just have to put up with. Blame the Lagavulin.

We start with an example from my favourite city - Sheffield; and the studio of George Vernon Yates. He had his studios in Davy's Building which, if you are familiar with modern day Sheffield, is now W.H. Smith's. The portrait must date from the early to mid 1890s and features, one supposes, a mother and child. Given that the child must have been born around 1890, there is a good chance that he (she?) was still alive in the late 1970s when I lived in the city. George Yates doesn't explain just who the distinguished patronage he claims was: but, if it counts, when I lived in Sheffield I would visit W.H. Smith's a lot.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Fire In Halifax #2

Fifty years ago I took a series of photographs of a fire in Halifax. It was just a relatively small fire in one of the mills; none of the photographs actually show the fire itself. It was the fire engines, the hose pipes and, in particular, the watching crowds that fascinated me then, and still do: fifty years down the line. The bee-hive hair styles, the bow-legged man, the housewives with babies and children who go out to watch the goings-on: Halifax folk in a world gone by.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Overlooking Halifax

This is a new scan of a negative I must have taken fifty or more years ago. It was taken from the churchyard of St Thomas' Church, Claremount, and shows the bottom part of Halifax back in the days when the buildings were still soot-black and the chimneys that made them so were still smoking.  Halifax Minster is half hidden by a gravestone, but Square Church can be seen on the right of the picture and this helps to date the photograph as the main body of the church was destroyed by fire in 1971.

Talking To Gladys On The Sands

Scanning and retouching old photographs is a little like doing a jig-saw puzzle - it allows you to get up close to detail. Cast a passing glance at a photograph from eighty-odd years ago - you can use this photograph of my mother, Gladys, on the seaside sands as an example - and you might notice the main subject or the approximate location, and then you move on to something else entirely like making a cup of tea or watching Coronation Street. When you are scanning and retouching however, you dedicate time to detail - the shape of the handbag, the activity of the crowds in the background, the pattern of the dress. You sit down and talk to the people and share memories.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Voyage Into West Yorkshire

My brother Roger and I have been discussing book publishing recently. He is about to publish a book he wrote nearly fifty years ago and, for one reason and another, never got published. The book tells the story of a voyage through the canal system of Ireland at a time when "old Ireland" was fast vanishing. He describes the background to the book in a recent post on HIS BLOG.

 By complete coincidence I was attempting to clear out our garage the other day and I came across a pictorial map of the Calder and Hebble Navigation, my brother published back in 1967. If it is time to take a nostalgic return to the canals of Ireland, a revisit to the local canal system fifty years on is even more appropriate. So I have rescanned the map and got rid of as much staining and ageing as I can. Over to you, Roger.

Hashtag Boring

This is the alabaster tomb of James Montagu who was the Bishop of Bath and Wells between 1608 and 1616. The tomb is in Bath Abbey and Jimmy was another of those lifeless figures that stopped me and asked for a selfie. On returning home, I Googled James Montagu in order to discover something of the mildest interest to say about him. There was nothing. Hashtag boring.

Clinging To A Fashionable Youth

I visited the Fashion Museum in Bath last week and, whilst the features exhibits were all very interesting, they tended to concentrate on the clothes being worn by Kings, Queens, Dukes and the like. If I have an interest in fashion, it is as a means of dating photographs - and the photographs I am interested in tend to be about as far removed from the aristocracy as Bath is from Bradford.

I suspect that this photograph dates from the mid 1920s. As is always the case, fashion is the province of the young, and the most distinctive clothing is certainly worn by the young lady on the extreme left of the group.

Her elderly relative - second from the right - clings to the fashion of her Edwardian youth.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Killing Three Birds With A Sea Urchin

My brother Roger sent me an email earlier today complementing me on the new Blog lay-out, and asking me to try and feature more of my old negatives and more old family photographs. I am able to kill two birds with one stone because, by chance, the next strip of negatives awaiting scanning features family members - indeed, none other than my brother himself. The six photographs on the negative strip are featured in the composite image below, and they were all taken during a family holiday to Scotland in the 1960s. 

The featured photograph at the top of this post shows Roger in a rowing boat, on - I think - Loch Levan, and holding a sea urchin shell which he had just pulled from the Loch. I am not entirely sure of the year - my best guess was 1963 - but by featuring the photograph here, there is a good chance that a comment will appear from my brother on the other side of the world, identifying the time precisely. Thus I will be able to date the negatives and kill three birds with one simple negative stone.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

A Second Look At Harry Elk

This is Harry Elk. We know that because someone has kindly written his name under his photograph. A date would have been nice, an address would have been better, perhaps even over generous. A quick check of census records results in nobody of that name with a date of birth around the turn of the twentieth century. Whoever he was, Harry was a thoughtful chap who deserves a second look a century later.

Monday, October 08, 2018

The Test Of Time

There is something slightly fake about this Victorian photograph: the quality of the print is a little too good, the line between the foreground and the background is just a little too sharp.  I have examined the print carefully, and as far as I can make out, it is a genuine studio photograph from the 1880s. It is just that she has stood the test of time rather well.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

At One With His Pipe And The World

I seem to attract old and lost negatives and photographs that gather together in the nooks and crannies  of my room, in search of company, in search of someone to love them. And love them I do: however old, however prosaic they may be. Give me an old negative of a man lighting his pipe against the backdrop of an over-stuffed coat rail, and I am a happy man. Just like the happy man in this photograph: at one with his pipe; at peace with the world.

Five From Slaithwaite 5 : Blue Days, Black Nights

The fifth and final £1 buy from the Slaithwaite antiques shop is an intriguing Edwardian studio photograph of a lady, some cushions and a telephone. Such photographs were common in the Edwardian age, but were normally featured on the picture postcards that were popular at this time. This is a print, not a postcard: and there are no studio details printed on it. Although telephones were a Victorian invention, it wasn't until the early years of the twentieth century that they began to be featured in popular culture. 

It is a great image to finish on, and as we zoom away from the Slaithwaite second-hand stall, the music of the Electric Light Orchestra fills the air. 

Blue days, black nights
I look into the sky (the love you need ain't gonna see you through)
And I wonder why (the little things you planned ain't comin' true)
Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time, I'm living in twilight

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Five From Slaithwaite: 4. Enlarged To Any Size

There is something slightly reminiscent of that great British comedian, Les Dawson, about this fine Victorian lady, who is the subject of the fourth of my five studio portraits bought from a second-hand stall in Slaithwaite. The portrait is the work of James Wright who had studios in both the Lancashire mill town of Oldham and in the seaside resort of Blackpool. The only reference to James Wright I have been able to find, is an small advert in the Warrington Guardian of 12th July 1873, and the style of the dress suggests that our image dates from around this time. Many of the early northern photographers had studios in both the mill towns and the seaside resorts that were becoming more and more popular with working class day-trippers. 

Les Dawson (1931-93) was born only a stones throw from Oldham and went on to find early success in the summer shows on the Blackpool piers. On the reverse of this Carte de Visite of a woman of substantial proportions, it says "copies may be ... enlarged to any size"; which is just the kind of comment Les Dawson would have taken great delight in!

Five From Slaithwaite: 3. Lady Ormonde

My third £1 purchase from the second hand stall in Slaithwaite was this delightful nineteenth century carte de visite from the London Studio of the society photographers William and Daniel Downey. William Downey (1829-1915) was born in South Shields and worked as a carpenter and boat builder before opening his first photographic studios in South Shields in the 1850s. By 1872 he and his brother Daniel had opened several studios in the North East, and William made the move to London to open studios on Ebury Street. He photographed both Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales and received a royal warrant in 1879.

This particular photograph is a great find because, not only is it a fine example of the work of the Downeys, but it also records who the sitter was: Lady Ormonde. Elizabeth Harriet Grosvenor was born in 1856, the daughter of the 1st Duke of Westminster, one of the richest men in Britain at the time. In 1876 she married James Edward Theobold Butler, the 3rd Marquis of Ormonde and was styled the Marchioness of Ormonde. She would have been around 26 years old when this photograph was taken, by which time she had two daughters – Beatrice and Constance. Her husband was a regimental colonel, a Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron, a Vice-Admiral of Leinster and just about everything else you could make up, and remained so until he popped his aristocratic clogs in 1919. His wife survived him by nine years, before finishing up as just a photographic memory on a Slaithwaite second-hand stall.

Five From Slaithwaite: 2. In The Limelight

There used to be a a shop in Huddersfield called something like “Global International Mobile Phones And Repairs“, which sounded all very grand, but was no more than a little chap in a broken down room with a counter made from a piece of wood balanced on two packing cases. Trades and industries that are in the first, heady stage of growth, tend to be drawn to such grandiose descriptions; and H Osguthorpe’s “North of England Photographic Institute” is a perfect case in point. Mr Osguthorpe made a living from the Institute during the mid 1880s, but by the end of the decade he appears to be looking elsewhere to make his fortune, as he placed several notices in The Stageadvertising his services as a “Limelight Worker”. Such workers operated the intensely bright spotlights in theatres and music halls, which were created by burning calcium oxide – or quicklime – at high temperatures. Sadly, Mr Osguthorpe was moving into the industry just as the limelights were just going dark: – to be replaced by the new, more convenient and more powerful, electric lights. Osguthorpe would have been better sticking to taking fine portraits of Victorian gentlemen in their wide-lapelled smoking jackets.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Five From A Slaithwaite Stall : 1 Pendlebury Wave

We were in Slaithwaite yesterday visiting the excellent Slaithwaite Art Festival, and afterwards called in one of the many antique emporiums in the village. There I found on one of the stalls a fine collection of old Victorian photographs. I managed to limit myself to just £5's worth, and came away with five excellent examples of the genre. I thought I would share them with you all over the next few days.

Carte de Visite of Unknown Woman : Studio of I Horne, Pendlebury
I know very little about this first photograph other than it comes from the studio of Israel Horne of the Lancashire town of Pendlebury. All I know of Israel Horne is what can be discovered by the usual trail through the census records. He was born in Summerseat, Lancashire in 1843, the son of a hand loom weaver, and he started work in the local cotton mill. By 1881 he had moved to Pendlebury and set up business as a grocer, and shortly after that he jumped on the photograph wagon that was one of the great growth industries of the time. In 1891 had an established studio in Pendlebury and a decade later his son and daughter were also working as photographers in the family business. By 1911 he had retired and three years later he was dead.

This photograph of a young Victorian lady with a very pronounced hair wave must date from the early years of the studio - probably the mid to late 1880s.

Daffodil On The Water

When I was young, back in the early 1950s, our family’s annual seaside holiday would alternate between Bridlington on the east coast and New...