River Don and St George’s Church, Doncaster.
An old faded postcard comes up as fresh as a sepia daisy following a good scanning. These days the church is surrounded by plate-glass and concrete buildings, but the Rover Don still flows quietly by.
Two people sat on a boat (I don’t know who they are) in a harbour (I don’t know where it is), a long time ago (I don’t know exactly when). Despite all the unknowns, the picture is a treat.
You get three views of Huddersfield for the price of one on this vintage postcard I acquired the other day, but as with all postcards from one hundred years or more ago, you get an awful lot of history as well. Those familiar with Huddersfield, will probably recognise the three views: most of the buildings featured are still standing today. The General Post Office is no longer the post office, but the building still exists and is directly across the street from the current post office which was built in 1914. The view of Church Street was a little confusing until I realised that it is, in fact, Cross Church Street, and that is clearly St Peters Parish Church at the far end.
Turn the card over and the potential interest is maintained. The postmark date is unreadable, but every indication would be that the card was sent at the height of the postcard boom in the period 1903-1907. The recipient was a certain Miss L A Kiddell-Monroe in Clacton-on-Sea and that name, date and location suggests that this was probably the sister of the famous children’s illustrator Joan Kiddell-Monroe who was born in Clacton in 1908.
This photograph of Amy and Wilf Sykes must have been taken in the mid 1930s. Amy Beanland was born in August 1904 in Keighley, Yorkshire, the eldest daughter of Albert and Kate Beanland (my mother Gladys was Amy’s younger sister). Wilf was born in the Yorkshire town of Pontefract, the son of a local policeman. His family later moved to Bradford and Wilf trained to become a wool-sorter and easily found work in what was then the wool capital of the world. Amy, the daughter of a mill mechanic, also worked in the mill and met and – in 1929 – married Wilf and settled down to a settled life in a Bradford suburb.
In 1939 (according to the 1939 Register) they were living at 1, Yarwood Grove in Great Horton, Bradford in a smart new semi. It was a house I was familiar with as we would often visit it for family parties when I was a young boy. The settled nature of their future came apart in 1963 when Wilf – still in his 50s – died. It would be easy to imagine that Amy would settle into the life of a lonely widow, but she would have none of it – she was to marry twice more before eventually passing away aged 98 in 2001.
In tracing the long and romantically active life of Amy through the various public records, what I was really surprised to discover was how that 1939 Register was continuously updated, decades after it had been first introduced to organise wartime ration-books and conscription. Careful handwritten amendments have been added to the original records to update her details following her marriage to Leslie Hanby in 1969 and Joseph Barker in 1974.
Street photography is all the rage at the moment. As a photographic genre it is usually said to date from the introduction of miniature 35mm cameras in the 1930s. But this old print – which appeared in a mixed batch of old photographs bought on eBay – dates from at least a decade earlier. It really is a fine example: whatever the camera, it has managed to capture a moment in time with both style and substance. That look between the two girls is worth a short novella, that busy background could give rise to a short thesis on social history.