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.


  1. What a bizarre message to your uncle on that post card. It's good that you at least have a photo of him.I'mooking forward to the next edition of this new venture.

  2. As an engineer, I am curious about the term "iron-turner". I can only assume that it dates back to the days before steel. In more recent times a lathe machinist, whether working with ferrous or none ferrous metals, is known as a "turner".

  3. Happy Birthday. Your work always shows how much you care to save relics of the past that you cherish. Over here in Toronto historical buildings are less than 200 years old and most are disappearing as developers change the city with many glass towers. I for one find it disturbing. Glass cannot withstand the future weather changes. I just returned from another UK visit and love the old structures.


The Halifax Court

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