Sunday, August 28, 2022

Aimlessly Wandering


For some time now, I seem to have been aimlessly wandering around my various blogs and social media streams in search of order, purpose, and direction. After lengthy consideration I have come to the conclusion that it is aimlessly wandering that I enjoy, and that order and purpose are foreign countries I neither have, nor want, directions to. So here is a walk I took around Halifax a couple of days ago.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Annie Burnett And The Dead Fox Marker

This is a photograph of my Auntie Annie - Annie Elizabeth Burnett who, in October 1933, became Annie Moore. My guess is that this particular photograph was taken before she married and could potentially date from somewhere in the late 1920s. She was born in 1903, and therefore she would have been 25 years old in 1928, perhaps about the time the photograph was taken. To try and pin down the date more accurately, we need to turn to those old standbys of photographic dating - cars, clothes, aerials and dustbins. We can quickly get rid of two of these markers - there are no cars in the photograph and no rooftops to check for TV aerials or satellite dishes (although the photograph is clearly too early for either). Dustbins are also a more recent marker - try taking a similar photograph in Britain today without an enormous wheelie-bin cluttering up the composition - so that can be dismissed as well. And that leaves clothes.

You could write a book on popular clothing styles over the years and their value in dating old photographs - and if you have, by any chance, written such a book, let me know and I will buy a copy - and the dress Auntie Annie is wearing could feature as one of the illustrations. Not only is there that magnificent dress, but also the poor dead fox she is holding in her right hand. The dress is clearly from the 1920s, but you can build in a degree of delay for such fashions to spread to the back streets of Little Horizon in Bradford. My guess would be 1928 or 1929, a time when she was already dating - or "courting" as they said in those days - the man she would marry four or five years later. It was also a time when her future husband, Harry, was trying his hand at becoming a professional entertainer, and had started touring the country as part of a professional Concert Party.

It was another twenty years before I came along - and another thirty before my memories of Annie became firmly established - and by then the dress will have been long gone. But I do remember the poor dead fox, stored on the top of the wardrobe in the little bedroom I used to sleep in when I stayed with them. Staring down at me, paws all limp, reduced to becoming a historical marker in an old photograph.

This is a Sepia Saturday post. For other interpretations of this week's theme image, go to the Sepia Saturday website and follow the links.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Driving Down The Lanes Of Nostalgia With A Shot Of Redex


As soon as the scan of this old negative of mine emerged from the digital equivalent of the developing solution, I knew there was something wrong. Not wrong, perhaps, as we all know that photographs and Prime Ministers can never lie, but something not quite right, something different. The photograph is of the Newlands Filling Station in the village of Northowram, near Halifax. I must have taken it sometime around 1980 as the old Crown Brewery building had been demolished and the newer carpet and furniture showroom had not been constructed. It was a view I was very familiar with as I spent most of my childhood living opposite the garage, down Oaklands Avenue. I used to walk between the garage and the old brewery on my way to the village school. My first ever job was at the petrol station, doing what the Americans so evocatively describe as "pumping gas".  It was the 1960s when I worked there and I remember the price of a gallon of petrol reaching five shillings (25p) - a challenge to cash hungry motorists but a blessing to petrol pump attendants who had to calculate prices and change. For those wishing to saunter down the inflationary lanes of nostalgia, the current price of petrol is £7.50 per gallon. 

Looking at the photograph transported me back over half a century: to the clinging smell of petrol, to those white uniform coats, to the shot of Redex in the petrol tank. And then, the penny dropped (to those still sauntering down the inflationary lanes of nostalgia, the .4 of a new pence dropped) - when I worked there, it was a BP filling station not a Shell one. Such things mattered, in those days, people would have a brand loyalty when filling their cars with petrol. They would argue that they went better on BP as compared to Shell, they would go further on Esso as compared to Mobil, and they would go faster on National Benzole compared to Jet. Such brand loyalties were reinforced by massive advertising campaigns, not to mention promotional toys, beer glasses and Green Shield Stamps.

No doubt, sometime after I had left the village, it changed from being a BP garage to a Shell garage. It also started selling second-hand cars, which it never did in my day. It's all history now. The petrol station has been replaced by a housing development - I wonder if they can still catch the faint aroma of four star petrol when the wind is in a certain direction? - the furniture showroom that replaced the brewery has itself been replaced by a supermarket ... and petrol has become faceless, nameless and very expensive.

Documentary evidence of my days working at the BP Filling Station

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Indelible Rough Sea At Scarborough


A lovely old early twentieth century picture postcard of Scarborough, showing, if nothing else, that extreme weather conditions are not just a twenty-first century phenomenon. I have managed to find a large number of vintage postcard views of rough seas at Scarborough - but not this precise photograph, so dating it is more difficult, especially as it has no postmark or stamp.

The reverse of the card is hardly an object lesson in the lost art of correspondence!  The message is somewhat limited: "Dear Margaret, I hope you are very well. We are very busy at school now. Must close. xxxx"

One very noticeable thing about the message and the address is that they have been written in indelible pencil - the purplish colour is typical of such pencils that were still commonly used when I was young. They were the kind of pencil where you would lick them to get them to write more clearly. I looked them up and was somewhat concerned to discover that they were highly poisonous because of the aniline dyes they contained. Exposure could lead to eczema, acne and carcinoma. Penetration of the dye from the pencil lead into the body commonly leads to severe and debilitating effects such as fever, anaemia, elevated white cell count, gastro-intestinal upset, kidney and liver damage, anorexia, and necrosis of the tissue. Given all that, it was perhaps a good job that our correspondent closed early.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

A Photographic Tale Of Several Wilkinsons


I have a new printer due to arrive today, so I spend a bit of time sorting out a suitable image to test it out with. Eventually I decided on this Victorian portrait of a young lady from the studio of a local photographer, Wilkinsons. A high resolution scan of the old Carte de Visite means that I will be able to test the quality of the printing when I stoke it up to its full A3 capacity.

The choice is a particularly good one because Mr Wilkinson (and I am assuming it was a Mr, although given the prominent role women played in the development of nineteenth century photography, this may well be a false assumption) advertises himself as the "inventor and sole proprietor of the new Photo Mechanical Process". Given that he lists his address as the Steam Finishing Works in Huddersfield and lists branches in Halifax, Cleckheaton and Sheffield, it was rather exciting to discover a local photographer who seems to have pushed back the technological barriers of photographic printing the best part of one hundred and fifty years ago.

Tracking W T Wilkinson down is not difficult, he seems to have published a number of books on photographic printing from the mid 1880s onwards. Indeed you can still download copies of his worldwide hit "Photo-Engraving, Photo-Etching & Photo-Lithography in Line and Half-tone; also Collotype and Heliotype" from Project Gutenberg today. In the 1890s he published another volume entitled "Photo Mechanical Process : A Practical Guide To The Production of Letterpress Blocks in Line and Tone", and this would certainly seem to link WT Wilkinson with our Wilkinson based at the Steam Finishing Works in Huddersfield. Nevertheless, all the published books by W T Wilkinson state that he is "of London"  and there is even records of him being a "teacher of photography and the Photo-Mechanical Process at Goldsmith's Institute, London".

Meanwhile, the excellent Huddersfield Exposed website has an article on the Huddersfield photographers J and F A Wilkinson and quotes an advert from 1890 in which their photographic studio at Claremont Hall, Newhouse, Huddersfield was put up for auction. This was obviously brought about by a reversal in the fortunes of their business because in 1894 poor old J A Wilkinson is sent to Wakefield Prison for "non-payment of Poor Rate" and in the early twentieth century he appears to be living in poverty in London.

I discovered one further piece of evidence in back copies of the Wakefield Free Press from April 1898 and this seems to imply that W T Wilkinson, "Photographer and Photo-Mechanical Printer" had a business in Wakefield in 1898. His advert claims that portraits of "yourself or friends ... your house, horse, dog, etc" can be printed up to 15x12inches for just five shillings. I doubt whether my new printer will be able to compete with that, but I will user the portrait of the young lady from the Steam Finishing Works in Huddersfield to test it out.

And whilst I am waiting for the new printer to arrive, I might just flick through Wilkinson's Photo-Engraving, Etching and Lithography" in order to get a few hints on the photographic printing process, and a few clues about the various photographic Wilkinsons.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Dean Clough In Transition


I probably took this in the early 1980s at a time when the Dean Clough was about to start a journey of transition from a redundant carpet mill to the busy complex of offices, galleries, restaurants and bars we know today. I wonder what the horse would have made of it all?

Monday, July 04, 2022

Risky Holly


I accept that this might not be an accurate representation of the scene: the lens had an angle wider than a wheat field and the filters came from a paint box. Nevertheless accuracy can be an overvalued characteristic in photography. Taken from Shepherds Thorn Lane (///, looking towards Brighouse and Clifton.

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Impressionism Please

I'd like to think of it as an experiment in impressionism, but, in fact, it was the result of a cheap camera, a badly focussed lens, a dark night, and a lot of rain. Those with long memories might recognise the shops around George Square, Halifax fifty years ago.

Fowler's Cards: 6. Knaresborough


"Been boating on this river on which were several couples affected with the "Spring Complaint". The trees were covered with blossom making it an ideal and quiet rendezvous. Should not mind a visit to Silloth. No reply Carlisle. AP"

Like any half decent mystery, the more you delve into Great Uncle Fowler's postcard collection, the more unanswered questions emerge. A pretty view of the River Nidd at Knaresborough provides a vehicle for a pretty description of the timeless courting rituals that so often accompany a pleasant day's boating on the river. But who is AP? Why has the card been hand-delivered? What happens on visits to Silloth? And what is the meaning of "No reply Carlisle"?

I can provide a geographical context. Silloth is a small seaside town in Cumbria within relatively easy travelling distance of both Carlisle, the county town of Cumbria, and Longtown, the town where Fowler was living during the early days of the twentieth century. The rest of the story, you can make up for yourselves.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Two Images : A Douvet Emergency

Two photographs from today remind me that interesting images surround us all the time and all they need is framing. I took the first photograph as I lay in bed this morning enjoying my first cup of tea of the day. I had been banging my head against a brick Wordle, and then somehow managed to take a photograph of the duvet cover. Until that moment I hadn't realised how beautiful a pattern the duvet cover had.

The second photograph was taken on a train to Stalybridge. I became fascinated with the multiple shadows being created by the "Emergency Exit" sign etched onto the window. My mate Steve, a better photographer than I and with a similar "eye" for an unusual image, spotted me sizing up a potential shot. "Go on, take it", he said without any preamble or explanation. I did.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022


I was attempting to follow the course of the Hebble Brook yesterday as it slunk its way under North Bridge before it gets lost deep beneath the Sainsbury's Car Park. During the course of my explorations I took this photograph which manages to capture three bridges over the anything but mighty river. The first is the simple stone bridge on Old Lane. The second is the magnificent cast iron North Bridge which was opened in 1871. The third is the spectacular Burdock Way Flyover that was opened a century later. Such a little stream to bring forth such mighty feats of civil engineering.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

History, Economics And The Price Of A New Suit

This Halifax advert from 1922 proclaims “the pound buys more at Pinders this Spring!" Such words are unfamiliar to us living at a time when the pound buys less and less. But economics is a strange science - falling prices can be as bad as rising prices.

My late, lamented Uncle Frank used to record the sound  of TV adverts in the 1960s. Principally, this was because he was a rather strange man, but I also like to think that it was because he recognised the value of adverts as insights into economic and social history. Take, for example, this advert for the Halifax tailor and outfitter, Harry Pinder, which appeared in the Halifax Daily Courier and Guardian just 100 years ago today.

You have the 1920s styles and a happy collection of straw boaters, trilby’s and pith helmets posing on a sunny English beach. Push the grand show of Spring styles aside, and you are rewarded with a fascinating insight into British economic history which is particularly interesting given our current economic malaise.

“The pound buys more at Pinders this Spring” was not a meaningless advertising slogan - it was all too true. In 1922, Britain was beset by deflation, with prices falling by 15% on average during the year. Before you get out the glasses and open the bottle of cut-price champagne, let me point out that deflation can be just as economically damaging as inflation. Deflation acts as a great discouragement to consumer spending - why buy today when whatever you want is likely to be cheaper tomorrow, and going for a song next month.  You can see echoes of this dilemma in the wording of the Pinders advert. Deflation also increases the real value of debt: and low consumer spending and increased debt in real terms means difficult times ahead.

There were difficult times ahead, but Pinders managed to survive them and became a household name in Halifax right up until the 1970s. Like so many others, they eventually became a victim to a mass consumption society where quality took a back seat to fashion, and people discovered that the pound bought more on supermarket shelves and in virtual stores. It will be interesting to see what people make of our 2022 economic crisis when looking back from the year 2122. I’m sure we will be welcome to look without pressure to buy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Friendship Abides At Victoria Hospital, Keighley

The 5th of Fowler Beanland’s old picture postcard provides us with a view of the old Keighley Victoria Hospital. The message on the reverse doesn’t advance our understanding of Fowler Beanland all that much, other than to remind us that friendship abides if distance divides.

We have reached the fifth of Fowler Beanland’s postcards and we have also reached the Victoria Hospital in Keighley. This is one of several postcards in the collection which has not been sent through the post, and therefore we lack the usual dating evidence. There is every chance, however, it dates from the time Fowler was living in Longtown, thus somewhere in the period 1905-1910. Equally, we can surmise that it was given to Fowler by a friend he had left behind in Keighley (LP), and the phrase “friendship abides if distance divides” was a popular saying during the Edwardian era. As to the identity of LP - or, indeed their gender - we must wait for further evidence to emerge.

We are on slightly firmer ground when we examine the picture on the postcard, although it is ground that has long since been cleared of the building depicted on the postcard. Keighley Victoria Hospital started life as the private residence of a local draper, Aaron Iveson, and was then converted into Keighley Cottage Hospital. It was later expanded and upgraded to become the Victoria Hospital which served the town until the construction of the new Airedale Hospital in the 1970s.

Sunday, June 19, 2022



This "image" of the old power station near North Bridge, Halifax is a version of a photograph I originally took over fifty-five years ago. I may well have featured this photograph before - if I was half the organised person I should be, I would know - and just in case I had, I thought I would mess around with it a bit. People keep telling me that I shouldn't "mess around" with the photos, that my filter-foolerings destroy any documentary value they ever had. Messing around with images, however, amuses me, and just occasionally an image appears that I find pleasing. This is one such image.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

English Spoken


We were in Italy earlier this year. And then, of course, we had our trip to Spain last month. We are booked for Venice in September, and, who knows, we might fit a trip in to see all the relatives in the Caribbean towards the end of the year or the beginning of next year. Even in this age of COVID, economic recession, and sky-high oil prices, we still see international travel as a normal part of everyday life. This, however, was not always the case, and I am reminded of this by this photograph from the family archives which shows my "Uncle" Charlie (left), mother and father outside a shop in Calais, France in the 1930s. What makes the photograph instantly recognisable to me is the phrase "English Spoken" which just squeezes itself into the top of the photograph. I can remember my mother showing me the photograph - well over sixty years ago - and saying, "this was when we went abroad".  During the first five decades of their lives, they had only ever been abroad once, and this photograph marks the occasion, They were on a motorbike tour of the South of England, and they took a day out from their journey and caught the ferry to Calais for a day-trip.

I am using this photograph as an illustration of the importance of ephemeral backgrounds in old photographs - those little details that sneak their way into photographs;  ephemera that become invaluable decades later in dating and placing old photographs. This is a fine example, because you not only have the "English Spoken" sign, but also the delights of a shop window display that could grace any exhibition of economic and social history. I tried adding a little colour, but the slightly sepia original seems to better sum up the era.

This is a Sepia Saturday post - for more photographs on the same theme, go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Three Kids


I guess I was about four years old when this photograph was taken (yes, that's me, the cute one in the middle). If I was four, we were still living in Bradford - we didn't move to Halifax until the following year - and therefore the photograph was probably taken at our house in Southmere Drive, Great Horton. The person on my left (right, in the photograph) is my brother, Roger, who would have been nine or ten at the time. I'm not sure about the lad on my right (left, in the photograph), but I have a feeling that I will be getting a message from Dominica before two long with the answer. Whilst I await a positive identification, here is the same photograph in colour.

Monday, June 06, 2022

Fowler's Cards : Keighley Mechanics


The second of the cards from my Great Uncle, Fowler Beanland's postcard collection shows a view of Keighley Mechanics Institute, which is quite appropriate, as the Beanland family were rooted in Keighley and they were mechanics of one sort or another for generation after generation. The Mechanics Institute was a fine building that stood at the junction of North Street and Cavendish Street until one fateful night in 1962 when large parts of it were destroyed by fire. What remained of the building was demolished five years later and the site was used for a new, but far less architecturally inspiring, Technical College. Much of that unlamented building has itself now been demolished, leaving a somewhat uncertain green space where the Mechanics Institute once stood. Fowler Beanland will have known the Institute in all its glory - it was built a couple of years before he was born and it burnt down a couple of years after he died - and he no doubt studied there when he was learning his trade. Keighley was a town of textile machines, a town populated by people who helped to build and service those machines, and it was those skills that took Fowler away from his home town to work in Longtown in the first decade of the twentieth century.

The card was sent to Fowler in November 1905 by David Beanland, at the time just sixteen years old. The message is a simple one - "Done any fishing?". Interestingly, David addresses Fowler as "Dear Brother", although he was, in fact, Fowlers' nephew, being the child of Fowlers' brother, Arthur Beanland, and his first wife, Clara Hargreaves. Clara died at the time David was born, and the young baby was brought up by Fowler and Arthurs' parents as part of their family.

By the time of the 1911 census, Fowler had returned to Keighley and was living with his sister, Eliza, and his nephew, David, on Smitherds Street, Keighley. Both Fowler and David were listed as "Engineers - Iron Turners": they were both Keighley mechanics.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Slam And Slide : Towards A Definition Of Culture


The welcome news that Bradford is set to be the 2025 UK City Of Culture got me thinking about what on earth culture is? Whilst definitions abound, they all tend to be constructed from words and concepts that are about as sound and structured as a jellyfish's ribcage. Clearly culture occupies a seat right next to our old friend beauty in the eye of the beholder. Another profound question has equally been occupying what remains of my mind recently, and that is why on earth did I take this photograph fifty-three years ago!

I know from its position on the strip of negatives that I took it whilst I was walking down Winding Road in Halifax. It sits next to photographs of half-demolished streets and building sites in the making. A little clever detective work tells me it was taken in the summer of 1969: even though no years are included on the posters, the combination of days and dates can be invaluable in identifying potential years. 

It was only when I started examining these two questions with the help of a rather splendid 12 year old Bowmore Single Malt, that I realised that the second question is, in fact, the answer to the first! What I was doing all those years ago, as I wandered through lower Halifax weighed down by a cast-iron Zenit-B camera, was searching for a definition of culture. Culture is partly the built environment - the chapels, the mills and the brass foundries - and it is also the things that make life in such an environment a little more bearable. That may be Handel's Messiah or Shakespeare's Hamlet; but it is more likely to be Mick McManus wresting with Mick McMichael at the Vic, or Eric Boocock slip-sliding around the gravel track at the Shay.

So, there you are, an old photograph and an old malt whisky have helped solve one of the great mysteries of life. Cheers.

Friday, June 03, 2022

Fowler's Cards : John Bright

If I've inherited my love of collecting things from anyone, it must be from my Great Uncle Fowler Beanland. Uncle Fowler - whose name was always pronounced "Fooler" within the family - was an avid collector of picture postcards during the early years of the twentieth century. His collection of cards was housed in a double-fronted pasteboard-backed album, and upon his death in 1959 the album was passed on to my mother, Gladys, and thirty or so years later, it came into my hands. I have always intended digitising the cards and using them to piece together elements of the life of Fowler and his relatives; but, like so many things, I have never got around to it. So I am going to make a start now, and rather than a structured chronological review of the hundred or so cards in the collection, I am just going to jump straight in and hope that a story emerges as I work my way through them. So, for no particular reason other than it was at the top of the pile, let us start with a statue of John Bright, and a card posted in March 1906.

The card was from Fowler's sister Eliza Ellen Beanland who was, at the time, living in Rochdale. It was sent to Fowler who was also living away from his native Keighley, in the town of Longtown, near Carlisle. The reasons for these two divergent addresses will, I suspect emerge as we work our way through the collection. However, we can see from this card that Eliza was in Rochdale looking after and Aunt who had been ill

John Bright - the subject of the statue depicted on the postcard - was an important figure in nineteenth century political history. Born in Rochdale, where the Bright family owned and operated a cotton mill, Bright became one of the leaders of the Anti Corn Law League in the 1830s and later he was elected a Liberal Party Member of Parliament,  where he held office in the governments of William Gladstone in the 1860s, 70s and 80s. He also played an important part in ensuring that the British Government did not intervene in favour of the South during the American Civil War. Historical characters are rarely one-dimensional however, and during his time in Government, Bright opposed factory reform, trade union rights and votes for women. His statue still stands in Rochdale today.

Our first dip into Fowler's cards may not have told us very much about his life, but at least our knowledge of nineteenth century politics has improved slightly.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Congratulations Bradford, City Of Culture 2025

The announcement that Bradford is to become the UK City of Culture in 2025 sent me straight to my archives to find a suitable image to celebrate the honour that has been bestowed on the city of my birth. It did not take me long to identify the perfect candidate: a photograph from, I think, the late 1920s or early 30s, which has been handed down from generation to generation in my family. It shows a chapel concert party from the Great Horton area of the city, and that is my grandfather, Enoch Burnett, with the bowler hat and shawl, second from the right on the back row. His eldest daughter - my Aunty Miriam - is also part of the troop; that is her looking very stylish in the centre of the front row.

I do remember that when my father passed the photograph on to me - thirty or more years ago - I had the good sense to get him to provide some names of others featured in the photograph. So we have father and son, Rubin and Jack Hudson who, I believe, ran the local fish and chip shop. We have Rita Thomas and Harry Booth, and Harry Foulger as well.

Following the announcement, Bradford now has the best part of three years to prepare for its year in the limelight. No doubt, much thought will be given to the various manifestations of that most difficult term, "culture". The spotlight will inevitably shine on the great authors, musicians and artists that came from the city, or the stunning buildings that still grace it, and the wonderful diversity that is such an element of Bradford today. Hopefully the culture that emanates from the ordinary people of Bradford will not be forgotten: the brass bands and steel bands, the choirs and rap artists .... and the chapel concert parties.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

25 Prints (4)

The fourth group of shortlisted photographs for my "25 Prints" project contains the usual mix of new and old, and pictures from near and far. If there is a common thread to this group - and I didn't intend there to be - it is that they have strayed some distance away from the idea of a traditional photograph. Not sure how many of these will make the final cut of the five photographs I will choose to be converted into A5 print cards.

Aimlessly Wandering

  For some time now, I seem to have been aimlessly wandering around my various blogs and social media streams in search of order, purpose, a...