Tag Archives: Vintage Postcards

A Halifax Melodrama

North Bridge, Halifax (1905)

This old postcard features a view of North Bridge, Halifax which must have been taken in the first decade of the twentieth century. The building on the left of the photograph is still there but the one on the right, the old Grand Theatre, is long gone.

The theatre was built in 1889 on the site of the earlier Gaiety Theatre which burnt down in 1888. At the time the photograph was taken it was a popular venue for variety theatre and the kind of melodramas the Edwardians had a particular passion for. The show beings advertised was “Bootle’s Baby”, the synopsis of which was as follows: “A captain’s secret wife plants a baby on a friend and he weds her when the captain is killed!”

The theatre and its melodramas may be long gone, but the old bridge is still there, although a more modern flyover takes most of the traffic, thus sparing its old cast iron bones. The mill chimneys have also gone and the soot encrustation has been scraped from the walls of the remaining buildings.

Postcard To Miss Speechley, Isle Of Man

The postcard was used in August 1905 and sent to Miss A Speechley os Kirk-Michael in the Isle Of Man. The message is as follows:-

Dear A, I am out again you see at such a lovely place, right out on the Moors outside Halifax. it reminds me of the Isle of man, am waiting for a letter from you. Yours love, E Beaumont (Mrs Smith, The Gleddings, Halifax)

I am tempted to think that the sender, E Beaumont, was employed as a domestic worker by Mrs Smith. I am not sure whether the Gleddings was the current building of that name (now a school) or a neighbouring house on Birdcage Lane. But there again, perhaps Mrs Smith was a captain’s secret wife …!

Halifax Town Hall – Saved By The Banks!

This old picture postcard was never used and therefore we don’t have a postmark to help us date it. It was published by a Halifax firm – Ryley’s of 27, Southgate – but I have been unable to trace when they were active in business. The photograph appears to have been taken at eight in the morning and there is little traffic about to help us with the dating process, other than a rather indistinct motorcycle of indeterminate vintage. This, however, is one of those rare occasions when we can proclaim “Saved by the Bank!”. On the corner of Crossley Street and Town Hall Street East in the picture, you can plainly make out the offices of the Union of London and Smiths Bank Limited. This particular conglomerate was formed in 1903 by the merger of the Union Bank of London and Smiths Bank, but was short lived; being acquired in 1918 by the National Provincial Bank, and being renamed the National Provincial and Union Bank of England. Banks – neither then nor now – have ever been shy about spending a bob or two to re-brand themselves, so we can assume that the old name plates were quickly taken down and replaced by new ones. We therefore have a time window: the rest is down to gut instincts based on design, printing process and the look of the streets. In conclusion, I suspect that we are looking at a photograph of Halifax Town Hall taken somewhere around 1912.

The First Tram In Space

1909 Postcard : Free School Lane, Halifax (AB Collection)

This is another old view of a road I knew so well. I used to walk down from school and then take a short cut from Clover Hill Road to Well Head and then the Bus Station for the bus home. There won’t have been tram lines there in my school days, but somehow the memories all get jumbled up. My school days seem so long ago, and yet I can remember seeing a newspaper billboard outside the newsagents shop here (where the Swiss Cafe was, I think), announcing the first man in space. Ot maybe, the first tram in space.

The reverse of the card is, as always, interesting in its own right. Written in December 1909, it is a thank you note for presents which will have been sent for Christmas. Addressed to “Captain Pacey”, it starts, “Dear Sister”; so I strongly suspect we are dealing with a member of the Salvation Army. There was a Salvation Army Maternity Hospital in Hackney around the time of this postcard, so perhaps that is a clue. But there again, Captain Pacey may have been the pilot of the intergalactic spaceship that regularly left from the Swiss Cottage Cafe in Halifax for the dark side of the moon.

Postcards From Home : An Edwardian Tweet About Halifax Post Office

The building that was Halifax Post Office, but now appears to be in a state of suspended urban animation, is featured on this lovely old postcard that was sent in 1903. When the card was sent, the building was less than twenty years old, and it was something the town was obviously proud of. It was a Camelot Castle of a Post Office with little towers and cupolas, bulls eye windows and coping stones built to cope with anything a northern industrial town could throw at them. It was designed by the architect Henry Tanner whilst he was serving as Surveyor at the Leeds Office of Public Works and opened in 1887. A contemporary newspaper report says that it “is a spacious building and has capital frontages to Commercial Street and Old Cock Yard”. The cost of the building was £10,000, exclusive of the cost of the site.

The very first picture postcards did not have divided backs where you could write both a message and the address of the recipient; the reverse of the card was the exclusive province of a name and address – any message had to be compressed into the space surrounding the picture on the obverse side. It was a little like an early form of Twitter – the art was to compress your news and views into a few precious words.

As far as I can make out, the message on this particular card is as follows:-

My Dear Erica,  Thank you for your P.P.C. Have you got the results of each separate subject, if so I should very much like to know, for I have failed in drawing, but I have quite satisfied teachers at school and think father is pleased. He has given me a thick gold curl bracelet. From Mary H Mitchell.I have done best at school and I am in S.A.E. I hope You have done best at your school.

There are a lot of words there, too many for a modern day Tweet, but the idea of writing small and curving the message around the edges of the card is a good one. Perhaps I will try it with my next Tweet!

Memories Of Cliff House, San Francisco

I found this postcard amongst a job lot I bought on eBay, all of which were supposed to be of West Yorkshire. I am not complaining, however, the beauty of job lots is the surprises they throw up and the serendipity that brings them to your door. The building which is featured on this old postcard – the Cliff House, San Francisco – is a very familiar one indeed. Six years ago we stayed for a couple of weeks in San Francisco in an apartment that was within walking distance of Cliff House. Of an evening we would walk up the hill to the bar and restaurant there, order a selection of excellent craft beers, listen to some good live jazz, and watch the waves on the Pacific Ocean. The postcard was, for me, dripping with memories of one of the best holidays I have ever had.

The message on the reverse of the card is not without interest itself. Although the stamp has been removed from the card, enough of the postmark is left to know it was sent in 1921. It was addressed to George Pink of The Limes, Newark on Trent, England and it was sent by the evocatively named, Lulu Cooper. The message appears to be as follows:-
“… feeling the coal strike, our language on the subject is unprintable. It doesn’t seem possible that your boys are grown up and doing University courses – how time flies. I hope you and Auntie are keeping well. With love from Lulu Cooper”

It is possible that this is the second part of a message that was started on an earlier postcard: it would explain the somewhat abrupt opening line. I assume the “coal strike” in question was the long-running strike by the miners of West Virginia which led to the “Battle of Blair Mountain”, where some 10,000 miners were opposed by 3,000 police and strikebreakers.  By the time the battle was over, one million rounds of ammunition had been fired and up to 100 people were dead. Such were the difficult times, it may have been that Lulu Cooper had been referring to the miners’ strike in the UK, although why that should have brought about an outburst of unprintable language in San Francisco is unclear.

I will leave the coal strike alone, and concentrate on the happy memories of those wonderful evenings back in the summer of 2013 – good music, good beer, good company and views to remember for a very long time.

Postcards From Home : Siddal’s Comet

My relationship with Siddal is somewhat akin to the relationship between the earth and Halley’s Comet. Very occasionally we are in close proximity: as a teenager I sought out a pub there that was reputed to have a liberal interpretation of the licensing laws, and many years later my brother lived there for a few months. Most of the time, however, I gaze at Siddal across the firmament and take sightings of it from more familiar regions such as Southowram and Salterhebble.

Therefore, when I recently came into possession of this old Real Photographic postcard of Siddal, I had to turn to Google maps to try and identify the exact location, and because many of the buildings no longer exist, a little bit of detective work was also called for. I am now reasonably confident in asserting that it is a view of Lower Siddal from the delightfully named “Bottoms”, and that the fine school building (centre, right) is the old Siddal Junior School that has now been replaced by a new housing development. At the bottom of the picture you can just make out one of the locks on the old Halifax Branch Canal which connected the town to the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Salterhebble. The canal is long gone, and any attempt to capture a similar view today would be impossible due to the abundant growth of post-industrial vegetation.

What Is Picturesque About Halifax?

This vintage postcard from Lillywhite’s of Halifax probably dates from the First World War – there is a “Passed For Publication” stamp on the reverse – and is intended to act as a showcase for “Picturesque Halifax”. The choice of the five views is a little odd however: whilst Ogden Water might still make the cut, the waterfall on the River Hebble at Weatley is a little underwhelming, and Cote Hill is nothing more than ordinary. Wainhouse Tower is interesting but perhaps not picturesque and People’s Park is …. well, its People’s Park. It is easy to be critical, however, and not quite as easy to suggest alternatives. Once the winter weather has gone, I will try and come up with five twenty-first century alternative examples of “Picturesque Halifax”, and in the meantime I would welcome any suggestions as to what should be included.

The postcard seems to have been sent, but not as a postcard but as an inclusion in a letter or parcel. It has been sent by Jack (whoever he was) to someone called Joe, or Jos, or even Joo in May 1918. It appears that Jack is a collector of “crest china” (small china pieces incorporating a coat of arms), and is a little particular in his specific requirements (he is not keen on the basket). Even though the china is not the exact shape that Jack wants he is prepared to accept it for the time being. And even though the five views of picturesque Halifax are not the ones I want, I am prepared to accept them for the moment.

Postcards From Home : Southgate Setts

Picture postcards from the first decade of the twentieth century are relatively common: that was when postcards were the text messages of their day, and picture postcard collecting was the hobby of choice. By the 1920s new picture postcards were becoming harder to find. 

​This wonderful colour photograph of Southgate in Halifax dates from that time – a time when motor vehicles were beginning to replace horse and carts on the streets of our towns and cities. If you view the same scene today, few of the buildings have structurally changed, but the canvas awnings have gone along with the old cobbled setts. The majestic Halifax Town Hall (designed by Charles and Edward Barry and opened in 1863) can be seen in the centre of the photograph.

“Dear Mary, Arrived safe 2.30, just been down to Halifax. I have got a terrible headache but I hope it is better by morning. Millie is looking very well again. Love to all, Mother”

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