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Tag Archives: From Old Photographs Series

  • In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs by Melvyn Jones and Michael Bentley

    Views of Rotherham - Clockwise from left to right: Clifton House, High Street, Clifton Park, Doncaster Gate; centre: the war memorial in Clifton Park. (In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Daniel Defoe writing about Rotherham in the 1720s rather dismissively wrote that there was ‘nothing of note except a fine stone bridge over the Don’. How wrong he was. Even then there was much to record in the town itself and in the surrounding settlements. In the intervening centuries it has only got more and more interesting.

    The Rotherham area has undergone profound change over the last century or so. There has been much demolition and re-building in the town centre. The town has grown outwards in all directions and the surrounding settlements, rural and industrial, have been transformed in many cases. Many working patterns and workplaces have disappeared, means of transport have changed out of all recognition and even how people used their leisure time in the early twentieth century shows some striking differences from today.

    Fortunately, in the latter years of the nineteenth century and during the first half of the twentieth century the town and its surrounding settlements were recorded on camera for posterity. This was done for a variety of reasons. Businesses wanted to record their activities, families wanted to record family events and the family photographic album came into existence. Local newspapers used photographs to record civic and other events taking place in their readership areas and of course, most importantly, the picture postcard came into existence.

    The picture postcard as we know it today came into existence in January 1902. From that date, what was to become until recent times, the standard-sized card – 5 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches - was allowed by the Post Office to have one side entirely devoted to an illustration in the form of a photograph, painting or engraving and the other side divided into two with room for a message on the left and the address on the right. With as many as five deliveries a day from Monday to Saturday and one on Sunday morning, postage costing only a halfpenny, cards posted locally were often being delivered on the same day as they were posted. Picture postcards became the standard way of communicating between places in the days before most people had a telephone. As a result photographic firms rushed to fill the booming market for postcards featuring photographs of local places and people. Everybody sent and received postcards. The Post Office dealt with 866 million postcards through the post in the year 1909 alone.

    Edwardian cyclists outside Wentworth Park. (In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    The early postcards, studio photographs, other family photographs and the commercial photographs tell us so much about our local history. Looking into how the landscape, fashions and local industry changed to name but three obvious areas of interest. But there is so much more. No Street, group, event or subject was too small or obscure not to be recorded on camera. Just two contrasting examples illustrate the point.

    Going on local excursions received a big boost by the production of reasonably priced bicycles in the 1890s following the introduction of the safety cycle in the 1880s and the development of the air-filled tyre in 1888 by John Dunlop to replace the solid tyre. For the first time many ordinary people could get away from the towns and the mining and industrial settlements to the countryside. Cycling clubs grew up everywhere and cycling became a craze. Women for the first time could move from place to place for work and leisure. In 1896 the American writer Susan B. Anthony wrote that ‘the bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world’. The photograph of cyclists reproduced here shows a local cycling club posing outside the gates to the park at Wentworth Woodhouse. Notice that all but one of the men and boys is wearing a tie. In Edwardian England you did not dress down to go out cycling, you dressed up!

    Christening of Viscount Milton, 1911. (In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    In complete contrast is a most fascinating group of postcards produced by E. L. Scrivens, the Doncaster-based photographer connected with the christening of Peter, Viscount Milton at Wentworth Woodhouse in 1911. The christening was more like a coronation than a christening. This was because the 7th Earl and Countess Fitzwilliam had four daughters and it was feared that the earldom would go to another branch of the family. The relative who would inherit if there was no son was an uncle who was 70 years old.

    The christening ceremony took place in the private chapel in the mansion at one o’clock on 12 February. The Rotherham Advertiser reported that the scarf presented to the Earl’s ancestor at the Battle of Hastings for his ‘valour and service’ would be wrapped around the baby Peter. 7,000 invitations were sent out to official guests and in addition it was reported that between 50,000 and 100,000 of the general public would also attend. One hundred men from London were sent to erect marquees for thousands of the official guests and 300 waiters came to Wentworth from London by special train. Local tenants, the employees of the hunts that the Earl hunted with, the parishioners of Wentworth and local miners all presented engraved bowls.

    In the afternoon and evening there was a full round of festivities including bands, roundabouts, daylight fireworks and the roasting of an ox to provide beef sandwiches for the public. The event ended with a magnificent fireworks display. It was reputed to be the biggest private firework display for five years. It included portraits of the Earl and Countess, Niagara Falls and a British battleship attacking and sinking the ‘dreadnought’ of a continental power.

    Melvyn Jones and Michael Bentley's new book In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs is available for purchase now.

  • Brighton From Old Photographs by Christopher Horlock

    Brighton From Old Photographs The Royal Pavilion 1846 one of the earliest photographs taken in Brighton The Royal Pavilion 1846 one of the earliest photographs taken in Brighton (c. Phillipe Garner, Brighton From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Another book of old Brighton photographs? There have been so many over recent years (and I’ve written seven of them!) it might seem there really isn’t the need for another.

    What’s different about this new book is it contains a large number of really old photographs of the town, some dating to the 1840s. I doubt if any other seaside resort has pictures from this decade. Even the nation’s capital, London, doesn’t have a significant number of views from this period.

    To put the earliest photograph in the book into context, Brighton’s most famous resident and patron, George IV, died in 1830. Just sixteen years later, we get our first photograph of Brighton – taken in 1846 - and it’s fitting that it’s a view of the Royal Pavilion, George’s seaside residence in the town. He was succeeded by his brother, William IV, another monarch to take a liking to Brighton, whose reign ended in 1837. Queen Victoria, William’s niece, then became monarch, but she found Brighton people repellent, and the cost of maintaining the Pavilion a real burden, and so sold the building off, in 1850, to the town’s Commissioners - the group responsible for administering local government then. The price was £53000, but this didn’t include any of the furniture, fixtures, and fittings, which she had removed. Over 140 van-loads of items were taken away, leaving the place a shell. One observer said the place, ‘looked like it had been plundered by Cossacks.’ Even tiny items, like plant pots and gardening tools were sold off. The job of restoring the Pavilion to its former glory took many decades.

    Brighton From Old Photographs The seafront 1863 This animated 1863 view looks east before the West Pier was built, with plenty of period fashions to be seen. (Brighton From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    The Pavilion estate, with its stabling (now Brighton’s Dome concert hall), and riding school (the Corn Exchange) form the first section of the book. There follow sections everyone will be expecting, featuring views of the beaches and promenade area, the piers (three of them), plus the main seafront roads and their hotels. I was pleased to put in a section on theatres and early cinemas, which often get neglected, and there are sections on the Old Town area (including the famous Brighton Lanes), the oldest streets - East Street, West Street and North Street – and also a large section on trade and industry. This last one will surprise some readers, as Brighton is not really known as an industrial town. Yet its North Laine area contained many factories, foundries and workshops, while at Brighton Station, a huge area became one of Britain’s major locomotive building centres, employing, in Victorian times, some 2000 people, making railway engines from scratch, turning out one a month. The book ends at the period of the First World War, with views of the Royal Pavilion being used a military hospital, so goes full circle.

    I’m always being asked where all the old photographs I have come from. It’s a long story! In 1968, my brother bought a ‘proper’ 35mm camera, and, loaded with film (36 pictures worth), we went out early one summer evening to try it out. We walked around central Brighton, taking photographs of things we noticed had changed recently, or had just been built. Why we chose to do this, I’ve never worked out. I’m not sure we really knew what we were doing. We took the old Hippodrome variety theatre, recently converted into a bingo hall, the new Brighton Square in the Lanes, plus views of the Palace Pier, and seafront. We took others, over succeeding years, including the huge American Express complex going up, one street down from where we lived. In 1972, the book ‘Victorian and Edwardian Brighton from Old Photographs’ came out, which really was the first collection of old photographs to be published. I found it a total revelation. I contacted the author, James Gray, and visited him many times over a twenty-year period, at first just to buy photographs off him, to go with all those modern day views we had been taking. I bought other photographs at collector’s fairs and other places, copied some out of old magazines, guidebooks, etc. etc. In time, as my own collection built up, I would swap pictures with Jim, having had copies made for him, he’d give me spares he had, and I would take any modern day views he needed, of buildings about to be demolished in Brighton.

    Brighton From Old Photographs Brighton's Chain Pier opened in 1823 destroyed by storm in 1896 Chain Pier opened in 1823 destroyed by storm in 1896. (Brighton From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Surprisingly, our collections were, and are, very different. Jim’s was mainly topographical - streets, housing, buildings, etc., with Hove, Portslade, Falmer, Woodingdean, Rottingdean, plus all of ‘Greater Brighton’ included, entirely in photographic form, no old drawings, engravings or prints. Mine would be exclusively Brighton, nowhere else, and included drawings and prints, interiors too, which Jim wasn’t keen on, plus ephemera, tickets, letters, advertising material, and theatre programmes.

    Jim put me in touch with other historians and collectors, including Antony Dale, founder of the Regency Society of Brighton and Hove ( I supplied all the pictures for his last book), and Philippe Garner, a photographic expert of Sotheby’s, London, who has a really unique collection of original Brighton photographs - no copies or postcard views - dating from the 1840s. Some of his pictures appear in the book. Other views come from postcard collectors I know, notably Robert Jeeves, who has the best set of Brighton cards there is, and Peter Booth, who has a very fine collection too, with many unusual views.

    That’s only part of the story. I don’t know really how many I have now, but it must be getting on for 20000. At present, about half that number has been digitalized and ‘photoshopped,’ if faded or damaged - an ongoing situation at the moment.

    As my collection spans all periods of Brighton’s history, right up to the present day (I still take photographs of what’s changing), there could easily be a follow-up book, with more photographs continuing from the First World War, through the 1920s and 1930s (when Brighton reached the peak of its appeal), ending with the start of the Second World War. We’ll see!

    9781445669403

    Christopher Horlock's new book Brighton From Old Photographs is available for purchase now.

  • Whitehaven and Around From Old Photographs by Alan W. Routledge

    When asked by Amberley if I would put together, what would turn out to be my eleventh book based on old photographs of Whitehaven, it took a while to say yes because I felt there was not a lot more to add to the towns’ story. Fortunately, at much the same time I was asked by the Beacon Museum to look at a box of CDs and DVDs and catalogue what was on them. There were about 30 discs with large numbers of images stored on them. A couple had over 4000 images between them of which 3,095 were scanned image from glass plate negatives from the 1920s and 30s. These wonderful images seemed like a gift from the gods and I wasted no time in seeking and getting permission to use them in a new book, for which I am grateful to the Beacon Museum.

    Whitehaven & Around FOP 3 Around the Green Market in Whitehaven in the 1930s, with marketeers offering flowers and locally grown fruit and vegetables. (c. Whitehaven & Around From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    I then set about the task of selecting some 250 images from the many images and quickly found life was not going to be simple because a very large proportion of the photographs had been produced in local studios and were of families and family events. Lovely pictures but no answers as to any who, what, when, where and why questions you may have. This reinforces the need to label up your pictures after you take them. I decided to lay out the book in 8 sections, each covering an aspect of life in Whitehaven. These included industries, education, recreation, shops and shopping and the outlaying villages and towns.

    The port of Whitehaven is situated on the west coast of Cumbria, some 50 miles or so from the Scottish Border by road or rail but only 28 by sea across the Solway Firth, the harbour is also the nearest on the mainland to the Isle of Man by a like distance. The Solway Firth is also well known for its magnificent sunsets viewed from the Cumbrian coast.

    Whitehaven itself straddles the St Bees Valley which rises steeply to 300 ft about the town centre. There are several claims that Jonathon Swift stayed at the High Bowling Green Inn directly above the harbour when he was an infant and that he based the tiny Lilliputians from Gulliver’s Travels on the equally small looking workers on the harbour and ships.

    Whitehaven & Around FOP 1 Commercial fishing often resulted in nets being damaged by snagging on rocks or wrecked ships which necessitated a mending session after nearly every trip. (c. Whitehaven & Around From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Whitehaven was to be invaded by enemy troops in a time of war when John Paul Jones led a couple of boatloads of sailors and US Marines in a raid on 23rd April 1778 to set fire to the ships in the harbour. Fortunately for the town the US Marines headed for the nearest pub – The Red Lion in Marlborough Street – returning to their boats having done no significant damage and in a condition described by Jones himself as confused. That was not to be Whitehaven’s last close encounter with the enemy when in 1916 a German U-Boat popped up outside the harbour and in 30 minutes fired 70 high explosive shells into Lowca Tar Works. Again only a little damage was done despite the shells hitting their targets. The damage was enough to close the works for a few days though.

    During WW2 the harbour became the home of the Danish national fishing fleet from where the fishing and sailing skills of the Danes did a great deal to keep up the countries food supply in dark times. After Whitehaven passed into the hands of the Lowther family in the 16th Century it began to trade with Ireland, particularly Dublin and Belfast. Selling salt, coal and manufactured goods and returning with beef, tallow and flax. Trade grew so rapidly that it required a proper quay to provide shelter for the increasing number of boats wanting a berth. The first stone built quay was erected in 1632 and the last major commercial facility – the Queens Dock – was opened in 1875.

    By 1750 Whitehaven was the third most important harbour in England after London and Bristol. By that time trade with Virginia and Maryland had grown to the point where Whitehaven was the biggest importer of tobacco except for Glasgow. The War of American Independence brought that trade to an end leaving only trade with the West Indies as a profitable venture and bringing the Slave Trade to some of the boat owners and merchants.

    Whitehaven & Around FOP 2 Haig Colliery (c. Whitehaven & Around From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    The harbour slowly declined leaving only fishing as a commercial activity in the North Harbour today. It has since been delightfully restored and converted to recreational use, with a large marina. The Beacon Museum and a good quantity of artworks around the harbour are there to be enjoyed.

    Deep coal mining continued in Whitehaven until January 1986 when Haig Colliery finally closed. The chemical industry ceased in 2005 bringing an end the manufacture of sulphuric acid and phosphates. The Rum Story on Lowther Street tells the story of sugar, rum and the trade with the West Indies.

    Whitehaven and Around From Old Photographs concentrates on the 20th Century and documents changes, focusing on the 1920s, 30s and 60s. Though I am sure there is much more to learn about this wonderful old town of ours here is what I have found out so far.

    9781445662329

    Alan W. Routledge's book Whitehaven & Around From Old Photographs is available for purchase now.

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