I acquired this old photograph a couple of weeks ago. It’s a rather fine photograph of a large Edwardian family posing outside a terraced house. My interest in it was sparked in particular, by the address printed on the reverse – like so many photos of that era it was printed as a postcard – which was W. Sykes, Brookroyd Terrace, Holywell Green, Nr Halifax.
The first decade of the twentieth century saw the coming together of two distinct fashions: amateur photography and postcard collecting. Camera technology had developed to such an extent that family groups and individuals could be photographed outside the confines of a professional studio. Photographic printing papers were manufactured with “postcard backs”, with names and addresses stamped on them for use by keen amateurs. With the postcard collecting mania in full swing, there was a ready market for local views and family groups.
As far as I have been able to discover, W Sykes was not a professional photographer – indeed, I can find little trace of W Sykes of Brookroyd Terrace, Holywell Green anywhere. Brookroyd Terrace certainly did exist, close up against the side of the massive Brookroyd Mill, but both the mill and the terrace were demolished sometime in the last century. I did manage to track down a photograph of the terrace, and it does seem very similar to the houses in the background of this photograph.
Perhaps the photograph shows W Sykes and his extended family. Possibly, he worked at the adjacent mill and had an interest in photography. I don’t know, but that doesn’t really matter. The photograph is a fine image in its own right.