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.

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...