With a few exceptions, the majority of the hundred or so postcards in the collection put together by my Great Uncle Fowler over one hundred years ago, fit into three distinct geographic categories: East Lancashire where Fowlers’ sister Eliza was living at the time; Keighley in the West Riding of Yorkshire where the family originated from; and Longtown in Cumberland where Fowler was living in the early years of the twentieth century. The third card in our exploration of his collection, features a picture of the bridge over the River Esk at Longtown, and thus turns the spotlight onto the Longtown connection. The obvious question – and it is a question that I have been trying to answer for many years – was what was Fowler doing so far away from home?
The answer is no doubt connected to the bankruptcy of his fathers’ small business – Fowler Beanland And Sons – in 1904. We will no doubt come back to this at some future stage of our exploration, but let us imagine that Fowler Junior, having no dependants in Keighley, decided to move away and earn a living far from his Yorkshire home. That still does not answer the question of why he specifically went to the small border town in Cumberland, but hopefully we can perhaps explore some of the possibilities as we work our way through the cards.
This particular card was not sent through the post and therefore we have no stamp or postmark to help us date it, however, the written caption on the front of the card suggests it was either during or after 1910. As the 1911 census shows him living back in Keighley, we can perhaps imagine that the card was a parting gift – perhaps along with an album – from his Longtown friends when he moved back down to Yorkshire. The message on the card simply says “With best wishes and success to your collections” and the signature is illegible.
The Longtown connection was undoubtedly an important one for Fowler. I would be about nine or ten when I saw the elderly Fowler Beanland shortly before his death. I distinctly remember being allowed to look through his album of old picture postcards when we visited. How I wish I had asked him the question – what on earth were you doing in Longtown?