Think of WhatsApp messages accompanied by fabulous photographs. Not photos of pouting lips or meaningless plates of food, but photographs that capture and preserve history. And thus you have picture postcards from one hundred years ago. Each one becomes an exploration, taking you through quiet graveyards or along disused tram lines.
The cemetery along Lightcliffe Road in Brighouse is still a little gem of a place, and it is still graced by the fine Victorian chapel (“linking arch under short octagonal spire, 1873, by William Gray of Bradford” : Pevsner). The card, with it’s crude colours and stiffly-posed locals is typical of the cards produced during the first decade of the twentieth century.
As with so many old postcards, the message on the back of the card provides the historical icing on the cake. It appears to be the second part of a longer message, and we miss out on who it is addressed to, or, indeed, who it is from. As far as I can make it out, the message is as follow:-
Well I am sorry to say that I have given up work last night (Friday) ’till further notice. I am fed up of this short time, (h)is Sydney working full-time? Well dears, I am off to Huddersfield tonight, do you remember going to the fair that time, we did enjoy ourselves. I wish we were all going again. We have got trams running from Brighouse to Huddersfield now, they come past the station, we can get on at the top of Brook Street and ride into Huddersfield for 5d. It is a lovely ride.
You could set a class of social historians an entire term’s project based on the various clues and reference in this short message. The best clue for dating the card is the reference to the recently introduced tram service between Brighouse and Huddersfield. This service was opened in 1923, and the economic problems leading to short-time working – referred to in the first part of the message – would neatly fit in with this time period. The tram route must have passed within a mile of where I now live, so I have been busily trying to retrace the route. I’ve not completed my investigations yet, but when I do so I will be able to get a tram to the cemetery!