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.
Everything seemed simpler 100 years ago, there was less clutter. The mills were proportionate, their chimneys vertical, the houses in neat rows and the canal cut straight through the landscape.
This picture postcard of the area known as Brookfoot just to the west of Brighouse, is fairly typical of the first decade of the twentieth century. The colours are a little crude and the detail is less than pin-sharp. However, it provides a good representation of the lower Calder Valley when roads were still of secondary importance to the canal, and satanic mills seemed to sprout from the green meadows.
The message on the reverse of the card takes us to far more exotic parts of the world. On the face of it, it is a simple message between two friends (old school friends I suspect): Arthur Dodds who is living in Brighouse and D H Gawne who is resident in Bradfield College, near Reading. The message reads as follows:
November 11, 1910
I am trying some other rooms next week and after Monday my address will be c/o Mrs Reside, 3 Close Lea, Rastrick, Brighouse. Mr Ray Priestley is going with Scott’s Expedition. I have not seen the result of your match with Queen’s College. Hope you are well.
Yours, Arthur S Dodds
It is, of course, the reference to Ray Priestley (a mutual friend I assume) that is intriguing. Ray (Sir Raymond Edward Priestley) did indeed accompany Captain Scott on his ill-fated Antarctic Expedition of 1910-13. He was not a member of the polar party but he was part of the group that got stranded whilst exploring the coast of Victoria Land. He did, however, survive and went on to serve in the Signal Corps in the Great War. He later had a distinguished career in higher education serving as Vice Chancellor of both the University of Melbourne in Australia and the University of Birmingham in Britain. It’s funny where old picture postcards can take you.
Bull Green, Halifax in the 1950s. Little has changed as far as the built environment is concerned, but it is a different world revolving around the roundabout these days.
I suspect that this postcard dates from the 1950s, but as it was never postally used I have no proof of that. The Bull Green we see in the photograph is certainly the Bull Green that emerged from the redevelopment of the area in the early 1930s, and one suspects that the photograph was taken from the newly built Bull Green House. A similar photograph today wouldn’t be all that different: most of the buildings you can see have survived (other than the rather ornate bus shelter). The road layout is different as are the crossings, and you would have to be up very early in the morning to see so few cars on the road.
Some say that Bull Green got its name from a bull baiting arena; others say it was the site of an old cattle market – as was the adjacent Cow Green. Why there were two distinct markets, I do not know: some strange Methodist propriety perhaps?
Postcards From Home : Commercial Street, Halifax (1908)
When it came to buildings, the folk of West Yorkshire favoured banks and chapels; temples to the soul and to commerce; brass and bibles.
This fine building was erected in 1898 for the Halifax and Huddersfield Union Banking Company. To make way for it, part of Somerset House was demolished, but architectural vandalism can perhaps be excused if the vandals in question have decent taste. Today it hangs on as the premises of Lloyds Bank, but in an era of ATM’s and on-line banking who knows how long it will be before it becomes an empty and soulless shell.
The card was used in February 1908 for Bert to send his “kind regards” to Miss Fildes of Pendleton, Lancashire. The likely recipient of his regards was Jessie Fildes a twenty-five year old hand weaver. There is a record of a Jessie Fildes marrying a Albert Torkington in 1918, but whether this is the same Jessie and Bert, we may never know. It it nice to think, however, that those kind regards bore fruit.
Much of my early life seems to be in this old picture postcard. My father worked at the factory on the left; for a time I worked in the mill on the right. My school is on the horizon, my youth on the soot-coated streets around the market.