There is something particularly engaging about this photograph of three women on a beach, which must date from the 1940s or early 1950s. The beach may be stoney rather than sandy, but the three women are wonderful pictures of their time. Their hairstyles could have been created by the make-up department of some twenty-first century period social drama; their smiles are absolutely genuine.
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After publishing one of my old vintage postcards of Brookfoot – which is little more than a bend in the river a mile or so west of Brighouse – on a Facebook local history site, I started a trawl through my collection to see if I had any more postcards featuring the same spot. I was delighted – and somewhat surprised – to discover I had three: a Brookfoot triptych! During the great postcard boom years, local photographers and publishers were combing the glens and bends of the country, looking for subject matter, and even tiny hamlets like Brookfoot had their five minutes of pictorial fame. Or, in the case of Brookfoot, fifteen minutes!
I am not sure if I was attracted to this little Victorian portrait by the look in the eye of the sitter or because in was taken in the studios of Sydney Barton in New Brighton. I remember New Brighton well from childhood seaside trips (the name “New Brighton” was a triumph for positively-spun nomenclature second only to the island of “Greenland”). Barton was listed in the 1901 census as living at 95 Victoria Road, New Brighton along with his wife, three children and a live-in maid. His occupation was that most trendy of late-Victorian occupations – “photographer”. It always amazes me how a bit of pasteboard, just four inch by two and a half, can have so much history stuck to it.
It was a glorious Spring day today and we were tempted outside. Wanting to respect the Government advice on social distancing and the avoidance of parks and beauty spots, we decided to attempt the ascent of Mount Blackley by taking the old footpath from South Lane in Elland to the top of the hill in Blackley. It was a long and arduous climb – and an even longer descent – but we managed to avoid the crowds without any difficulty. If we were attempting to avoid beauty spots, we failed miserably: the scenery was spectacular.
This is an old picture postcard featuring Crown Street in Halifax at the beginning of the twentieth century. Although it dates from an age of horse carriages and gas lights, it is a scene which will be familiar to all those who know the town. Most of the buildings featured in the view are still there; and although the striped awnings and crowded shop windows may have been replaced by neon lights and plastic signs, the shape of the architecture is unchanged.
The card was posted in July 1904, at the height of the great postcard collecting craze of the early twentieth century. The message is a direct ancestor of so many text messages of 100 years or more later : “I am at Halifax. I will write again Tuesday night. From Ernest“. The message is of little interest to us today, but the image it was scrawled on the back of, provides us with a direct line to our past.
A rather old and faded photograph, the victim of too many years stored on damp and dusty shelves. But that look shines through; a look divorced of style and fashion. Beautiful.
These are strange times: there seems so much to do in the world and yet we are assured that our best contribution is to stay at home. So what else is there to do other than to turn to the past and set out on a virtual voyage of exploration. By walking in the footsteps I took 55 years ago, I can still safely wander down crowded streets and see sights that are no longer visible. The following six photographs come from a strip of 35mm negatives I shot sometime in the mid to late 1960s around the town of Brighouse in West Yorkshire. I have featured each of these shots on the Brighouse History Facebook Group, and members have helped me identify the exact location I must have used. Some of the buildings are still there, some have substantially changed, some have gone altogether. Looking at these photographs, there is a greyness about the town that seems to fit with the time they were taken. I like to think that Brighouse is a much more vibrant and colourful place these days.