This strange little vintage postcard has an awful lot of white border and a somewhat anonymous rural scene, that could be here, there or almost anywhere. It only becomes of interest when the message on the reverse is read.
It is addressed to Stanley Nunn Esq of Mandeville Road, Enfield in North London. You need to stand on your head to read the message, but fear not, I have done that on your behalf.
Halifax: 21/7/07 I am anxiously awaiting your reply and will then make arrangements. This is a view of the outskirts of Halifax showing the tower on “The Rocks”. Yours very sincerely, Cecil Scott.
Now it has been pointed out, it is clear that is Wainhouse Tower on the horizon, but what remains a mystery is where the photograph was taken from. It is a side of Halifax I am not as familiar – hopefully someone else will recognise it and let me know.
This is a somewhat colourful picture postcard of the Victoria Hall in Halifax which dates from the first decade of the 20th century. Such cards were hand-coloured, and one can suppose that the colourful imagination of the colourist got the better of them on this occasion.
The card was sent to Mr G H Smith of Nettleton Street in Ossett. I have been able to trace Harvey Smith in the 1911 census (he was a rag merchant not the famous equestrian rider of sixty years later), but I can’t find a G H Smith at that address. The closest match is one Harold Smith who would have been just ten years old when the card was posted, and thus more likely to have been addressed as Master G H Smith. People were forced to grow up quickly back in those days, however; Harold Smith went on to fight in the Great War during which he was awarded the Romanian Military Medal for Distinguished Service! That, no doubt, is another story.
My interest in vintage postcards started sixty or more years ago when, as a child, I would be taken to visit my mother’s Uncle Fowler. Whilst the grown-ups talked, I would look through the album of old picture postcards he had. When he died, the album came to my mother, who – knowing my interest in it – passed it on to me. Those old postcards, collected by Fowler in the early 1900s, became the core of what became a larger collection, as I added postcards I would find in second-hand shops over the years. It is time, I think, to try and bring the collection back together in digital form. Fowler is pictured above – a photograph that was stuck in the back of the album. The postcards were in no particular order in the album, nor will they be in this digital collection.
For much of the time that Fowler Beanland was collecting old postcards – the first decade of the twentieth century – he was living in Longtown, Cumbria. He had moved there following the failure of the short-lived business he had established with his father and elder brother in his home town of Keighley. He was a spindle-maker and iron-turner by trade, and he may well have been employed in that capacity in the Longtown area.
The card had been sent to Fowler at his address in Longtown (48 Swan Street) and it came from someone else in the same town. The message – even when turned around by 180 degrees – is curious in the extreme. “You was doing it fine on Sunday thought no one ___ you, A Looker On”What the missing word is, I have no idea!
Although this postcard was not postally used – and therefore has no convenient postmark on the back to help date it – we can be reasonably sure it dates from that first decade of the twentieth century, when picture postcards were the Twitter of their day. The card shows Sir Francis Crossley’s Almshouses which are on Margaret Street, just off Lister Lane in Halifax. The almshouses were built in 1855, just next to the home of Sir Francis Crossley, Belle View, which can be seen to the left in this view. The almshouses provided accommodation for the elderly, and to qualify for a place you needed to be at least 60 years of age, without adequate means of support, of good character, having had a religious upbringing, and being incapacitated from work by age, disease and infirmity. Whilst this list of provisions may sound somewhat restrictive, one can only wonder at an age when the rich were prepared to provide accommodation for the poor and destitute – at the bottom of their own gardens!
Those familiar with Halifax will know that there are two sets of Crossley Almshouses in the town, on opposite sides of People’s Park. They were built by the two brothers, Frank and Joseph Crossley, and both still exist today. The Francis Crossley Almshouses, pictured above, predate those built by his brother Joseph on Arden Road, but there is a similar architectural style displayed in both buildings. Whilst the Frank Crossley Almshouses were designed for the poor and elderly of the district, the Joseph Crossley Almshouses were originally intended for the retired workers from Crossley’s carpet mills.
The Crossley family left an indelible architectural mark on the town of Halifax which can still be seen today, and Halifax is a more fascinating town because of it.
This is a rather odd little postcard which dates from the early years of the twentieth century and features a view of Crown Street in Halifax. For some reason, the publishers – the famous W H Smith & Son – have chosen to print the photograph in a murky black on a dark silvery grey; a process which leaves the scene looking as depressing as it is indistinct. Given the wonders of Photoshop, you can play around with the image and give it a rather warmer and homely finish.
The photograph must have been taken from near the top of Crown Street, from close to where the Sportsman public house stands (although these days it is known as the Gun Dog). The Sportsman was built on the sight of a much older pub (the Rose And Crown), but the current building dates from 1904. It will take an eye more attuned to Edwardian Halifax than mine to decide whether the Sportsman is just visible on the left of this photograph, but if it is of any help, the card was posted in October 1906.
In perfect keeping with the indecipherable grey of the front of the card, the sender has decided to write the message with some form of blunt blue crayon, thus presenting a challenge to anyone who wants to read it. My best shot is as follows:-
To: Miss M Nollie, 21 Simpsons Terrace, Crookhill, Ryton on TyneReceived your PC alright hoping that you are not offended at me sending you that postcard as I did not no that there was a penny to pay and how are you getting on when I have time to ask you hoping you are well. I’ll leave you with luck TDPosted in Wearhead, October 30 1906
It seems that the sender forgot to put a stamp on the last card he or she sent to Miss Nollie – hence the one penny which had to be paid. Perhaps they had sent it shortly after a good night out at the Sportsman!
A postcard from 1904 showing Southgate in Halifax. The buildings have a warm familiarity about them. Ryley’s stationers brings back warm memories of ledgers and Quink Ink.
29 December 1904 : To: Miss Richardson c/o Mrs Rawson, The Banks, Padiham, Lancashire Dear Nance, Thanks for the P.C. I am sorry you did not get the one I sent before. Winnie forgot to post it until I got home Tuesday night. We went to see Babes In The Wood at the Royal. Theatre is a new house opened this Xmas for the Pantomime, enjoyed it very much. I remember the P.C. very well, it put me in mind of one Sunday afternoon we went a walk. Must make haste for post with love from your ever loving friend, Maggie. I got this when in Halifax. I will write for Sunday.
With some old picture postcards, all you need is a big magnifying glass and a spare morning, and you can get lost in history (and with digital technology you don’t even need the magnifying glass, just a good scan and a decent zoom). This old picture postcard of Ward’s End in Halifax is a case in point. It provides a wonderful comparison between the familiar and the unexpected: buildings and shapes that can still be seen today, next to structures that are nothing but a dismal memory. The building on the right is the old Palace Theatre and Hippodrome, which was opened in 1903 and for a time was the grandest theatre in the town. It made it until it was just able to make an impression on my memory, and then it was cruelly demolished in 1959 to make way for the less than magnificent Southgate House. The final performance at the theatre before demolition was of the musical Brigadoon. Perhaps the theatre will reappear every 100 years for a day. I have a feeling that I might not be around in 2059 – perhaps someone could check on my behalf.