Monday, January 14, 2019

Gone To Mablethorpe, Back Soon?

That's it! I've had enough of the grey skies and drizzle-caked streets of West Yorkshire for a while. It's time for a break: time for the sun, time for the sea, time for something different. So if nothing emerges from my various blogs and social media streams over the next couple of weeks, worry not. I've exited Brexit.  I've packed my case and gone in search of exotic new places and equally exotic old relatives. Possibly Mablethorpe promenade, possibly not.

Friday, January 11, 2019

A Trip Through The Stratosphere To Southend (Sepia Saturday 452)

The Sepia Saturday theme this week focuses on means of transport and has a photograph from the 1950s  that seems to look back to an earlier age. My submission is a photograph from the 1930s that looks to the future.

My photograph features the unmistakable features of Frank Fieldhouse ("Uncle Frank"), and thanks to his obsessive caption-writing, I can tell you that he is pictured in front of the Stratosphere Rocket ride at the Kursaal Amusement Park in Southend in August 1938. The Kursaal (a German word meaning "place of healthy amusement") is famous for being the first purpose-built amusement park in the world, and from the late nineteenth century until the 1980s it provided a series of attractions for visitors: from ghost trains to motorcycle riders, from roller coasters to rock concerts.

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a 1959 photograph from the National Library of Ireland, which shows a group of railway workers repairing a line after an accident. Although it is a relatively late photograph (in Sepia Saturday terms), there is something slightly old-fashioned about it. By contrast, my 1938 photograph looks forward to an age when you could flag down a rocket ship and whizz through the stratosphere to Southend.

To see more Sepia Saturday posts, go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the link.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Postcards From Home : What Is Picturesque About Halifax?

Here's a challenge for you! If you had to put together a postcard featuring five views of Halifax and entitled "Picturesque Halifax", which views would you choose? Probably not the ones featured on this vintage postcard from 100 years ago.

This vintage postcard from Lillywhite's of Halifax probably dates from the First World War - there is a "Passed For Publication" stamp on the reverse - and is intended to act as a showcase for "Picturesque Halifax". The choice of the five views is a little odd however: whilst Ogden Water might still make the cut, the waterfall on the River Hebble at Weatley is a little underwhelming, and Cote Hill is nothing more than ordinary. Wainhouse Tower is interesting but perhaps not picturesque and People's Park is .... well, its People's Park. It is easy to be critical, however, and not quite as easy to suggest alternatives. Once the winter weather has gone, I will try and come up with five twenty-first century alternative examples of "Picturesque Halifax", and in the meantime I would welcome any suggestions as to what should be included.

The postcard seems to have been sent, but not as a postcard but as an inclusion in a letter or parcel. It has been sent by Jack (whoever he was) to someone called Joe, or Jos, or even Joo in May 1918. It appears that Jack is a collector of "crest china" (small china pieces incorporating a coat of arms), and is a little particular in his specific requirements (he is not keen on the basket). Even though the china is not the exact shape that Jack wants he is prepared to accept it for the time being. And even though the five views of picturesque Halifax are not the ones I want, I am prepared to accept them for the moment.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

A Telephone Call Interrupts A Night At Huddersfield's Microscopical Soiree

My random-driven time machine sends me off to a meeting of the Huddersfield Literary And Scientific Society in 1879, but whilst I am looking at a wood spider through a microscope, a telephone call teaches me a lesson about history.

Huddersfield Chronicle : 9 January 1879

This description of a meeting of the Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society's "Microscopical Soiree" is taken from a copy of the Huddersfield Chronicle of the 9th January 1879 - 140 years ago. Old newspaper articles can paint pictures just as well as any art school graduate, and as you read through the list of microscopic treats on offer - spores of a truffle, trout's ova, section through a coal miners' lung - you begin to picture a body of frock-coated, heavy bearded Victorian gents fussing over the specimens and speculating about the future of mankind. The youngsters are deriving considerable amusement from Mr Wood's patent atmospheric stereoscope, and the women - one presumes - are at home supervising the scullery maid.

But history has a habit of catching you out and challenging your perceptions, because in walks Mr Dammann and what has he got with him but a telephone! Logic tells me he has somehow got lost in the time warp that exists near Ainley Top and arrived fifty years too early. Old newspapers, however, never lie .... unlike their modern counterparts!

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Random Access Memories : A Marine, A Car, And Half A Dog

A caption on the reverse of this photograph claims it was taken at the Marine Hotel in Barmouth in 1928. Other than that, I know nothing about it. We have, however, a marine, a car, two fashionable ladies and half a dog. What more could you possibly require in order to write a cracking who-done-it?

Monday, January 07, 2019

Postcards From Home : Southgate Setts

Picture postcards from the first decade of the twentieth century are relatively common: that was when postcards were the text messages of their day, and picture postcard collecting was the hobby of choice. By the 1920s new picture postcards were becoming harder to find. 

​This wonderful colour photograph of Southgate in Halifax dates from that time - a time when motor vehicles were beginning to replace horse and carts on the streets of our towns and cities. If you view the same scene today, few of the buildings have structurally changed, but the canvas awnings have gone along with the old cobbled setts. The majestic Halifax Town Hall (designed by Charles and Edward Barry and opened in 1863) can be seen in the centre of the photograph.

"Dear Mary, Arrived safe 2.30, just been down to Halifax. I have got a terrible headache but I hope it is better by morning. Millie is looking very well again. Love to all, Mother"

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Transcending Silver Salts in Hebden Bridge

A good vintage photograph is one in which the personality of the subject being photographed somehow transcends the chemical process of silver salts and hypo fixer, and flows straight off the pasteboard card. This photograph of an unknown woman from the Hebden Bridge studio of Crossley Westerman is one such photograph. Westerman established his "Electric and Daylight Studio" in Hebden Bridge in 1892, and quickly acquired a reputation for high quality portrait work. His daughter Ada eventually ran the studio and shop and in 1921 she employed a young apprentice photographer, a local girl, Alice Longstaff. Alice became a very accomplished photographer, and during a long career (she took over the studio in 1936 and ran it until her death in 1992) she produced a extensive collection of work. The story of Alice Longstaff is told in a book, "Alice's Album" by Issy Shannon and Frank Woolrych, and there are many examples of the work of both Crossley Westerman and Alice Longstaff on-line. This particular photograph is probably too early to be the work of Alice Longstaff, but whoever took it, it is a piece of work to be proud of.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Postcards From Home : Halifax's Hospital On The Hill

No doubt the transport engineers who have spent a lot of time and money widening the road outside what is now Calderdale Royal Hospital would be jealous of the wide open spaces on this real photographic postcard from the early twentieth century. 

The hospital was opened in 1901 and went under a variety of names in the early part of the twentieth century including the Halifax Poor Law Hospital, the Union Infirmary, St Luke's Hospital, St Luke's Military Hospital and finally the Halifax General Hospital. By the twenty-first century it had become the embryo of the new Calderdale Royal Hospital.

When it was built it was the largest public building in Halifax and it cost somewhere around £130,000 to construct, and that is equivalent to about £15 million today. The total cost of the current Salterhebble Hill roadworks is seemingly about £20 million. Discuss!

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Random History : The Highly Gratified Poor

Today, our random time machine takes us back to 1873 and up the valley to Heptonstall. Ah, the good old days when Victorian values were paramount and if you gave someone from the poorhouse an orange they would be "highly gratified".

"TREAT TO THE POOR - On New Year's Day (through the kindness and liberality of a lady resident in Heptonstall township), the inmates of Blackshawhead poorhouse were served with a good substantial tea at the house of Mr Ogden, grocer: a quantity of oranges and other "luxuries" were distributed afterwards, and the company was highly gratified"

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...