My home-made desk calendar today features an image from a postcard – sent 110 years ago by my Great Aunt Eliza to her brother, Fowler Beanland. The view is of Fleet Street in Bury. I must admit, I don’t think I have ever been to the town – an omission that I will try to put right once this lockdown in ended – but Google Maps suggests that Fleet Street no longer exists and has been replaced by a shopping mall.
The message on the card is as follows:- 17th April 1911 : Dear Brothers, Just a line to say that I arrived alright, I went to the New Church at Heywood last night and I liked right well. Mrs Land went with me and they were a man and woman sat with us and they gave us an invitation to their house.With love, Eliza. At the time, Eliza would have been 31 years old and she was living in Rochdale. I suspect, but I am not certain, that she was in domestic service, but I need to gather some more evidence.
My calendar image today features a view of Throstle Nest Farm in Shepherd’s Thorn Lane, Rastrick, which is only a few minutes walk away from where I live. The farm is long gone, all that remains is part of a vaulted cellar, and therefore this chance to see it as it would have been 100 years ago is a welcome one. The image comes from an old vintage postcard I recently acquired. There is a message on the back, but it has faded into mysterious obscurity.
As I look out of my window, the ground is thick with snow, therefore there will be no walk down Shepherd’s Thorn Lane today. I will content myself with looking at the scene as it was over a century ago, on a sunny summer’s day, when the song thrushes were still singing.
I found Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman at the bottom of my chest freezer the other day. Not, I hasten to add, the late and somewhat lamented Liberal Prime Minister (1836-1908), but the frozen carton of pie and peas named after him. Now who, in their right mind, would name a dish of pie and peas after a somewhat obscure nineteenth and early twentieth century Prime Minister, I can hear you ask? The answer is, of course, me and my friend (and in-law), Ian. Some time ago, back in the good old days when pubs were still open, we would frequent a pub quiz, where, along with fifty questions, you were given a free dish of pie and peas. Not wanting to interrupt an evenings’ drinking with unnecessary eating these would occasionally be taken home to be consumed later and, in some cases, were consigned to the deep freeze. I cannot remember exactly which one of us started the habit of naming these dishes after former Prime Ministers, but it is a habit that stuck, and at one time or another, the likes of David Lloyd-George and the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham could be found in freezers around Huddersfield.
By chance, I acquired a rather nice vintage postcard featuring Sir Henry, a couple of weeks ago. It dates from 1905, a time when Sir Henry – known to one and all simply as CB – was in power. His pie and peas were, sadly, well beyond their consume-by date and had to be disposed of. However, to make up for it, CB can share my desktop today.
In the main, I try to steer clear of politics in my posts; not because politics isn’t important (it is, vitally important), and not because I don’t have political views (I do, very definite ones), but I believe that the problems facing us as a society today are not so simple that they can be solved in a cut-and-pasted tweet or Facebook post. The politics of the populist rant are causing enough problems these days (good morning, America, how are you this morning!). Nevertheless, I could not resist making my calendar post for today this vintage postcard from 1910. Interpret it as you will: better still get together with whoever is in your social bubble and discuss it calmly and logically. That seems to be what’s needed.
My love of old vintage picture postcards goes back to my childhood when I would accompany my mother on occasional visits to her uncle, who lived in Keighley, the town of her birth. Fowler Beanland, who was always known in the family – without any trace of sarcasm – as “Uncle Fooler”, lived in what was at the time, a smart terraced house a few minutes walk from the town centre. I would look forward to such visits because the preferred way of keeping me quiet whilst the grown-ups discussed family matters, was to let me look through Fowler’s album of old postcards. He had collected these postcards during the great postcard-collecting craze of the first decade of the twentieth century. When I used to look at the album, when I was a child of six or seven, they would appeal to me because of their colour and their depiction of exotic locations such as Rochdale, Carlisle and Blackpool. Later, when I inherited the album, they would appeal to both my love of old photographs and my fascination for family history. I still have the collection intact, and I look forward to passing it on to my grandchildren. My desktop calendar image today features just one of these postcards, a view of North Street in Keighley in the early 1900s.
A seasonal image for the Christmas period: an early twentieth century celebrity postcard. It is captioned “The mother of The Missess Zena and Phyllis Dare“. Zena and Phyllis were musical comedy stars of the early years of the twentieth century, and their mother was Harriette Amelia Wheeler. She was the victim of an unhappy marriage and a violent husband, and clearly directed her energies into encouraging her daughters to go on the stage. As the postcard demonstrates, she also enjoyed a certain celebrity status herself. Her husband, Arthur Albert Dones was a divorce clerk, an occupation that may have come in useful when Harriette eventually divorced him for cruelty and adultery in 1915.
The 16th century Clough House stood on Halifax Old Road, just north of Huddersfield. Its grandness can be judged by the fact that under the 1664 Hearth Tax it was taxed on five hearths, which at the time was not just grand it was positively greedy. Sadly it was demolished in 1899 and now lives on only in an old postcard in my collection.
This is a rather strange picture postcard featuring the Victorian and Edwardian entertainer, Marie Studholme. The photograph is fetching enough: she sits suspended in a hammock next to a table bearing a tennis racket. The table, however, also contains a basket full f some strange unidentified objects that look rather like a cross between a modern polythene-wrapped sandwich and a folded pocket handkerchief.
The photograph is signed CN, which is clearly not Marie Studholme herself. Marie – who was one of the original Gaiety Girls and a noted animal lover – was renowned for charging sixpence each time she signed postcards, and gave the proceeds to an animal charity. One can only assume that whoever sent this card to Miss Pattison was no great supporter of such charities.
The expansive address field clearly indicates that no message was required.
This midget gem dropped through my letter box yesterday, along with a dozen or so more old vintage postcards (is there a word for people who are addicted to buying useless ephemera on eBay?) I have never come across a “Midget Post Card” before, but they appear to have been popular for a short period during the height of the postcard craze of the early twentieth century, They weigh-in (so to speak) at a featherweight three and a half inch by two and three quarters, and the reverse side already appears overcrowded once a stamp and an address have been added.
There is, however, something about the shape which is quite satisfying – especially when it provides a frame for one of the great beauties of the Edwardian era, Lily Brayton. Lily was born in Lancashire in 1876, the daughter of a local doctor. Acting must have been in the family somewhere, because both her and her sister went on this stage, and in 1898 she married the Australian actor, director and writer, Oscar Asche. They became the celebrity couple of their era: if it had been a century later, Lily and Oscar would have TV programmes made about their lives and millions of followers on Facebook and Twitter. Because it was the start of the twentieth century, Lily had her image on hundreds of picture postcards.
This particular tiny postcard was sent to Mrs Hailes of the Royal Marine Barracks in Stonehouse, Plymouth in July 1904. The message is short and to the point (they had to be on midget postcards – a little like Twitter you were restricted in the number of characters you could use! “Train leaves Millbay at 2.20pm. We shall be delighted to have the children for the night, EH.”
You can make of that what you will. Alternatively, you can look into the eyes of the midget gem that is Lily Brayton.