One can’t avoid being impressed by how well Artificial Intelligence (AI) copes with the automated colourisation of old black and white photographs. Take, for example, this photograph of a back street in Burslem, North Staffordshire, which I took in the early 1970s when I was living in that part of the world. The negative was stored in my archives shoulder to silver-salted shoulder with dozens of other negatives, mostly of the streets of West Yorkshire. That clever little artificial intelligence, however, decided that the houses of Burslem would have been built from brick rather than Yorkshire stone, and coloured them red instead of mucky brown. What a clever little AI! It’s just a pity that it had to spoil itself by showing off and painting the road green.
Category Archives: Scanned Negatives
Is it just age that makes you far more susceptible to time travel? Sometimes it can be a word like advocaat, sometimes a pattern like the geometric madness of 1960s wallpapers; most times it is an image.
These two photographs were taken at a Christmas Party at my parent’s house, sometime around 1965. They are full of memories, and by themselves could provide a rich itinerary for a week’s worth of time travel. The table with the Christmas drinks – it was always a bottle of advocaat, a small bottle of Babycham, and a bottle of sweet sherry. There may have been some port left over from a previous Christmas, but I can’t recall there ever having been beer, and wine was unheard of. There is that wallpaper which is guilty of assault and battery on the senses, and the posed expressions on the faces of my aunts and uncles. There was a dish of biscuits – maybe even a chocolate one – an artificial tree and a warm sausage roll or two. It was a moment or two in time, captured within the cardboard confines of a colour slide. Now it is a rich vein of memories.
A photograph of mine of Halifax in the early 1960s. The Town Hall was still soot-encrusted, the cars parked outside the White Swan Hotel had an over-abundance of chrome, and Pohlmann’s still sold pianos.
Sheffield is built on hills and therefore back yards are often more like back cliff faces. This was the back yard of the house we lived in forty years ago: big enough for a dustbin and a pushbike. Washing hung like kites, getting ready to launch once a decent breeze got up, destined for the skies over distant Rotherham.
I have always had a fondness for old photographs, and I am lucky to have lived long enough for my new photos to have become, themselves, examples of the genre. The emergence of Facebook local history groups has changed the nature of pictorial history, moving it from the arena of relatively obscure printed books and pamphlets into a far more public realm. As with all changes, there are good and bad consequences, the enumeration of which is best reserved for a quiet night over a pint or two in a local pub. Two definite advantages, however, are the increase in the number of old photographs of local interest being published and shared, and the improvements in tracking down forgotten locations. My featured photograph today was taken over fifty years ago. From the adjacent shots on the negative strip, I know I must have taken it somewhere in the Brighouse area, but where? I will post it today on a couple of the local Brighouse history groups and, no doubt, by the end of the day I will have a precise location, the name of the chap crossing the road, and the ownership of the washing hanging on the line.
The Theakston family have a long tradition of brewing in the North Yorkshire town of Masham, the original brewery having been founded getting on for two hundred years ago. I have a long tradition of taking photographs of pubs and breweries, these photographs of the Masham brewery and the nearby White Bear Hotel, were taken getting on for fifty years ago. You can’t beat tradition.
This photograph of mine of Brighouse from fifty or more years ago has always been one of my favourites, and for years I have assume that it was taken from River Street, looking west towards the town. Stuck in the fag-end of lockdown, I have little better to do with my time these days but to go through these old photos of mine, adding a sprinkling of colour here and there, and endlessly re-sorting them into virtual boxes. Which is how, yesterday, for the first time in almost 55 years, I realised that I can’t have taken this from River Street as the Brighouse flour mill would have been the other way around. I immediately went into full exploration mode, dived into Google Street View, and eventually tracked down the one remaining building in this photograph. And it turns out that I was not in River Street looking west, but in Bank Street looking east! The self-satisfied glow of achievement radiated from me for hours …. and then I realised what a sad, lockdown life I am beginning to lead.
For over a century, Britannia has sat on top of the old bank building and the end of Elland Bridge, flanked by columns of Aberdeen granite, two pubs, and a host of mill chimneys. Whether she was looking at the old gas works, watching the traffic of the new by-pass or scanning Elland Woods – is that a meandering bear I see? – remains a mystery. Pubs, chimneys, gas works – and even bears – come and go, but Britannia remains, resolute in stone, ruling the occasional waves that appear in the Calder And Hebble Canal.
This is a photograph from forty years ago of Cannon Mills in Great Horton, Bradford. It is a hundred yards away from where my father was born and grew up. It is a mile away from where I was born and spent the first four years of my life. And yet, I hardly know the area other than through street names that ring distant bells of memory, and the scent of heritage that clings to the flagstones. Like most people, I have a bucket list of places I want to visit and revisit once this lockdown is over, and on that you will find your sunny Spain and your colourful Caribbean Islands. Such places have to fight for space, however, with the streets of the West Riding I proudly call my home.