Monthly Archives: January 2019

Gone To Mablethorpe, Back Soon?

That’s it! I’ve had enough of the grey skies and drizzle-caked streets of West Yorkshire for a while. It’s time for a break: time for the sun, time for the sea, time for something different. So if nothing emerges from my various blogs and social media streams over the next couple of weeks, worry not. I’ve exited Brexit.  I’ve packed my case and gone in search of exotic new places and equally exotic old relatives. Possibly Mablethorpe promenade, possibly not.

A Trip Through The Stratosphere To Southend (Sepia Saturday 452)

My photograph features the unmistakable features of Frank Fieldhouse (“Uncle Frank”), and thanks to his obsessive caption-writing, I can tell you that he is pictured in front of the Stratosphere Rocket ride at the Kursaal Amusement Park in Southend in August 1938. The Kursaal (a German word meaning “place of healthy amusement”) is famous for being the first purpose-built amusement park in the world, and from the late nineteenth century until the 1980s it provided a series of attractions for visitors: from ghost trains to motorcycle riders, from roller coasters to rock concerts.

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a 1959 photograph from the National Library of Ireland, which shows a group of railway workers repairing a line after an accident. Although it is a relatively late photograph (in Sepia Saturday terms), there is something slightly old-fashioned about it. By contrast, my 1938 photograph looks forward to an age when you could flag down a rocket ship and whizz through the stratosphere to Southend.

To see more Sepia Saturday posts, go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the link.

What Is Picturesque About Halifax?

This vintage postcard from Lillywhite’s of Halifax probably dates from the First World War – there is a “Passed For Publication” stamp on the reverse – and is intended to act as a showcase for “Picturesque Halifax”. The choice of the five views is a little odd however: whilst Ogden Water might still make the cut, the waterfall on the River Hebble at Weatley is a little underwhelming, and Cote Hill is nothing more than ordinary. Wainhouse Tower is interesting but perhaps not picturesque and People’s Park is …. well, its People’s Park. It is easy to be critical, however, and not quite as easy to suggest alternatives. Once the winter weather has gone, I will try and come up with five twenty-first century alternative examples of “Picturesque Halifax”, and in the meantime I would welcome any suggestions as to what should be included.

The postcard seems to have been sent, but not as a postcard but as an inclusion in a letter or parcel. It has been sent by Jack (whoever he was) to someone called Joe, or Jos, or even Joo in May 1918. It appears that Jack is a collector of “crest china” (small china pieces incorporating a coat of arms), and is a little particular in his specific requirements (he is not keen on the basket). Even though the china is not the exact shape that Jack wants he is prepared to accept it for the time being. And even though the five views of picturesque Halifax are not the ones I want, I am prepared to accept them for the moment.

A Telephone Call Interrupts A Night At Huddersfield’s Microscopical Soiree

This description of a meeting of the Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society’s “Microscopical Soiree” is taken from a copy of the Huddersfield Chronicle of the 9th January 1879 – 140 years ago. Old newspaper articles can paint pictures just as well as any art school graduate, and as you read through the list of microscopic treats on offer – spores of a truffle, trout’s ova, section through a coal miners’ lung – you begin to picture a body of frock-coated, heavy bearded Victorian gents fussing over the specimens and speculating about the future of mankind. The youngsters are deriving considerable amusement from Mr Wood’s patent atmospheric stereoscope, and the women – one presumes – are at home supervising the scullery maid.

But history has a habit of catching you out and challenging your perceptions, because in walks Mr Dammann and what has he got with him but a telephone! Logic tells me he has somehow got lost in the time warp that exists near Ainley Top and arrived fifty years too early. Old newspapers, however, never lie …. unlike their modern counterparts!

Postcards From Home : Southgate Setts

Picture postcards from the first decade of the twentieth century are relatively common: that was when postcards were the text messages of their day, and picture postcard collecting was the hobby of choice. By the 1920s new picture postcards were becoming harder to find. 

‚ÄčThis wonderful colour photograph of Southgate in Halifax dates from that time – a time when motor vehicles were beginning to replace horse and carts on the streets of our towns and cities. If you view the same scene today, few of the buildings have structurally changed, but the canvas awnings have gone along with the old cobbled setts. The majestic Halifax Town Hall (designed by Charles and Edward Barry and opened in 1863) can be seen in the centre of the photograph.

“Dear Mary, Arrived safe 2.30, just been down to Halifax. I have got a terrible headache but I hope it is better by morning. Millie is looking very well again. Love to all, Mother”

Transcending Silver Salts In Hebden Bridge

A good vintage photograph is one in which the personality of the subject being photographed somehow transcends the chemical process of silver salts and hypo fixer, and flows straight off the pasteboard card. This photograph of an unknown woman from the Hebden Bridge studio of Crossley Westerman is one such photograph. Westerman established his “Electric and Daylight Studio” in Hebden Bridge in 1892, and quickly acquired a reputation for high quality portrait work. His daughter Ada eventually ran the studio and shop and in 1921 she employed a young apprentice photographer, a local girl, Alice Longstaff. Alice became a very accomplished photographer, and during a long career (she took over the studio in 1936 and ran it until her death in 1992) she produced a extensive collection of work. The story of Alice Longstaff is told in a book, “Alice’s Album” by Issy Shannon and Frank Woolrych, and there are many examples of the work of both Crossley Westerman and Alice Longstaff on-line. This particular photograph is probably too early to be the work of Alice Longstaff, but whoever took it, it is a piece of work to be proud of.

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