There is a sadness about this woman of two centuries ago. It is as though the instantaneous camera of Mr. William Colton Pearson has captured her in a moment of doubt: not quite knowing what awaits in the new century that lies just around the next bend of Manchester Road.
At a meeting of the Old Gits Luncheon Club the other day we got to talking – as one does when you’ve had a pint or two – about the latest developments in geo-positioning technology. There is now a system available, it appears, which has assigned a three word code to every three metre square on planet earth; and the good news is that the three words are in English! Some suggests that these three word addresses will soon replace old-fashioned approaches such as postcodes and grid references. In particular, the precision and simplicity of the three word system – it is suggested – makes it ideal for use in drones and other robotic delivery systems.
We were anxious to discover how old-fashioned technologies such as picture postcards would be able to cope, so, as an experiment, it was agreed that I would attempt to send a postcard to another Git member using only the What3Word code for his front door. Would the Royal Mail be able to work out what was happening and interpret the address?
One of the great advantages of the system is that the three word code is, theoretically, much easier to remember that a complex and lengthy numerical grid reference. Equally it is far more precise than a post code that can cover half a street. One problem, however is that the three words are random and therefore not sequential. The front door of my fellow Git is at carpentry.wink.printouts, but the code for his front room will be something entirely different. Therefore, if you make the slightest error in transposing the code you can send your drone/card/nuclear warhead to entirely the wrong place. In my first attempt to write is address I mistakenly put carpentry.winks.printouts which turns out to be in the middle of the jungle just north of Ouagadougou in Burkino Faso!
I will let you know if the card ever arrives at its intended destination. In the meantime, if you would like to find out more about the system and discover your unique three word location code, you can do so by going to the What3Words website
Unknown Couple Asleep On Boat (1930s) (AB Collection)
I can’t decide whether this couple posed for this photograph or whether they were actually asleep and a companion got his or her smartphone out and took a quick picture that would make a fine profile picture on Facetwit or the like. But this was the 1930s and it would take a year and a day to get your camera out, extend the bellows, measure the range for the focus and wind on the roll film. Perhaps they were sailing away for a year and a day to the land where the bong-tree grows.
In suspect that this photograph dates from around 1970. Whilst the precise date may be lost, the location is undoubtedly West Yorkshire and that part of the county characterised by stone walls, chapels and mill chimneys.
It was a time of political chaos, when the Government of Britain was wracked by internal divisions and factions. Cabinet meetings were characterised by open hostility and serial resignations, and the Prime Minister seemed to stand back and watch the fighting so as not to alienate one faction or another. The issues being argued about were Britain’s place in the world and it’s trading relations with other countries – issues that were essentially economic but which had become lost beneath a jingoistic cloak of patriotism and colonialism. Leading politicians involved in the struggle would change positions with alarming regularity, creating confusion amongst their supporters and a degree of dismay amongst the wider electorate. It would all eventually end in political tears for many of the people involved.
Sounds familiar? It was, of course, the summer of 1903. Joseph Chamberlain – that champion of Liberal free trade who had recently become a convert to the idea of tariffs and Imperial Preference – had resigned from the Government. Whilst he was no longer a member of the cabinet, he was still a powerful political player and his son, Austen Chamberlain, remained in the cabinet to represent his cause. The Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour, content to stand back and try to gauge which way the wind was blowing, was rendered useless and went on to lose the General Election in 1906.
Now, we tend to look back on the events of 1903 and ask, “What on earth was it all about?” When the country should have been concentrating on modernising its industrial structure and improving the social conditions of its population, it wasted its time with a sterile argument between politicians who were championing their own fanciful ideas. We can look at old vintage postcards of the period like the one above, and shake our twenty-first century heads and say, “what a waste“.
I am not trying to suggest that current events are an exact repeat of the ridiculous arguments of 115 years ago. After all, there is one big difference: there are no political postcards this time around.
Arthur Stanhope Medrington opened an artist studio at 128 Bold Street in Liverpool in the late 1870s. Like so many jobbing artists of the time, his work was largely confined to providing relatively cheap portraits of Victorian middle class families – the type of work and the type of market that the new invention of photography was ideally suited for. By the mid 1880s his work was primarily as a photographer and he opened up a new studio (the Grand Electric or Daylight Studio) at the other end of Bold Street at No. 29. He was later joined in business by his younger brother, Charles Edward, and they continued in business well into the twentieth century.
This particular Carte-de-Visite from my collection must date from the 1880s when Arthur was still styling himself as an “Art Photographer and Portrait Painter” and his studio is clearly seen on the reverse of the card as being at 29, Bold Street. Where the address on the front of the card – 20 Bold Street – comes from, heavens only knows, perhaps as a result of an annoying printing error. To add to the confusion, the reverse of the card also suggests that he was previously at 33, Bold Street: quite clearly Arthur Medrington was up and down Bold Street like the adjustable legs of a tripod!
This is a photograph of my late father-in-law, Raymond Berry, which must have been taken in the 1950s whilst he was working at a ceramic glazing company in Elland, West Yorkshire. Raymond – on the right in the photograph above – eventually left the glazing company and went to work in the local mill. The combination of the dust from both work environments were to cut his life short and deny him the long and happy retirement he deserved. If anyone ever moans on about “health and safety nonsense” within my hearing, I just remember Raymond and give thanks that nobody should be subjected to such working conditions today.
This delightful print, which I suspect dates back to the 1870s, came into my hands for a few pence via an eBay job lot of old photographs. It is the work of Blas Rangel, an early studio photographer who was born in Singapore in 1840 and was active in several towns in Britain in the 1860s and 1870s. Like so many of the early pioneer photographers, he kept changing locations – driven onwards by a combination of forever seeking new markets and escaping from bad debt and bankruptcy. When this spectacularly beautiful albumen print was made, he had a studio in the small town of Penmaenmawr, on the North Wales coast. The “art finishing” refers to the retouching that was a feature of these early photographs: in this case the slight emphasis given to the eyebrows and the nose.
Footballers in those days were a different breed: thick shirts, thick woollen socks and thick heads that could withstand a laced-up leather ball. Tantobie were a village team with quite a reputation: the great Billy Smith (1895-1951) grew up in the same Durham pit village.