Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lost and Found - Three Images

LOST AND FOUND
A celebration of old photographs which have long been lost and forgotten, but have now been found and shared with the world.


1705001 : A YOUTH ON A HORSE : The strange thing about this print is that it appears to date from a period much later than when horses were a regular feature of the roads of the land. The road is paved - a road of the age of the motor car - and the horse is saddled. The youth seems to be a child of the thirties, a time when horses were for sportsmen and farmers.


1705011 : THE REIGATE CAMPERS : Clues can be found within the smallest and most insignificant details in Lost Photographs. This is a scan of a found negative of two young lads on what appears to be a camping holiday. One of the lads is sat on a beer crate which appears to be from the Reigate brewer, Mellersh & Neale. The brewery was taken over in 1938 and beer bottles didn't travel far in those days.


1705013 : THE BESPECTACLED VICAR : I assume he is a vicar, because that does look like a clerical collar that he is wearing. He is also wearing a very self-satisfied smile. Here is a man at peace with his salvation.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Walking Backwards : Gardens, Teapots And Varicose Vein


It is possible to think of each old photograph as a step into history. If it is a photograph of unknown people in unknown places, it is, by definition, a step into the unknown with all the uncertainty and potential for excitement that implies. If it is a photograph you are familiar with - or better still, a photograph you took decades ago - it is a step into more familiar territory, rich in clues to memories that have long been in a state of hibernation. If it is a strip of negatives (photographs that are linked together by celluloid certainty) it is not a step, but a walk through history. Scanning a long forgotten strip of negatives from forty or fifty years ago is like walking backwards through time and one of my favourite occupations.

This strip of five negatives must have been taken in the early 1970s. Four of them feature the gardens at my parent's house in Northowram, near Halifax, whilst the fifth is a photograph of my mother, Gladys.



The picture of my mother is as rich in memories as an Autumn fruit tree. That little folding table seems to occupy a larger portion of my memories forty-five years after the event, than all the faces of my school class mates put together. I can still remember the feel of that little aluminium teapot and the smell of brewing tea leaves being swirled around in order to provide a last half-cup of well stewed tea.

And look at my mothers' legs! Those varicose veins that stood out like a relief map of the Rift Valley. Veins that she passed on to me with genetic certainty, veins which now wind their way up my leg with the complexity of a river delta. And then there is an enigmatic smile that the Mona Lisa would have been proud of, a smile that says "you might laugh at the state of my legs now, but just you wait my boy, just you wait!”


The other four photographs on the film strip were all taken in the gardens of the family house in Oaklands Avenue - a house that was my home from the early 1950s until a year or two before these photographs were taken.

The back garden fell steeply from where the house was built, and my father had constructed a series of terraced flower beds. By the time these photographs were taken the individual terraces had been smoothed into a continuous slope.


When we first moved into the house in 1952, the view to the back was one of fields and hills interrupted by the occasional church tower of mill chimney in the distance. Over the years houses were built in the fields, but I don't remember anyone at the time marching down the lanes with placards demanding that the countryside should be saved from such developments. It was a natural process - people had to have homes to live in - views were something for picture books and visits to the seaside.


At the front of the house was the inevitable drive, car and garage. The garage was made of asbestos and will probably rank as a major international biohazard today. I can half remember the car - chunky, square and utilitarian - and the number plate does allow me to make a better guess at the date of the photos. My father would tend to buy cars when they were two to three years old which plants the negative strip very firmly in the period 1972 to 1973.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sepia Saturday 368 : Who's A Lovely Boy Then?


You don't have to travel far, metaphorically speaking, to get from a snake on your lap to a parrot on your shoulder. Our theme image this week is the former and my contribution is a picture of Alexander at the zoo back in 1994. To me, 1994 is just like yesterday and doesn't really qualify as a sepia image, so I had to turn to a Photoshop filter to age it. But then it seemed like a crime to render such a colourful parrot in sepia tones, so I brought it back to its colourful best. 

The Sepia Saturday theme image was late going up this week because I took Isobel to Chester Zoo as a birthday treat. Whilst we were there we fondly remembered all the times we had taken Alexander to the zoo when he was a child. The photograph above - from, I seem to remember, the Welsh Mountain Zoo near Llandudno - was one such occasion. When we eventually got back home from Chester we were delighted to discover that Alexander had driven up after finishing work to spend an evening with us on his mothers' birthday. As Mr Parrot would no doubt say "Who's a lovely boy then?"

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Further Up't Hill From West Vale


Wandering up the hill towards Hullen Edge, we came across a couple odd streets that got my genealogical pulse beating that little bit quicker. First there was Union Street. The "union" in such names could mean lots of things - trade unions or the union between England and Scotland, for example - but often it is a reference to the Parish Unions which were established to oversee the Poor Laws. Just around the corner, I realised we were walking up "Workhouse Lane”, and I immediately started looking for the local workhouse. I did find a suitably austere and institutionalised building which I became convinced must be the old Elland-Cum-Greetland Workhouse, but further research suggested that this was the former home of the local Catholic Primary School. I led my companions up every dead-ended lane and street, searching for the building to which several of our relatives will had been committed, but to no avail.

If you take a sharp left off Workhouse Lane you come to Feather Bed Lane! I realise that you could hardly make this up, and it sounds for the world like some Victorian allegory about hard work and enterprise; but it is true. If you ignore the temptations of the proffered feather bed and keep climbing up the hill you come to one of those splendid terraces, that West Yorkshire was so good at producing a hundred or more years ago. Solidly built in stone and set into a hillside, such developments seem to be planned by nobody and connected to nothing. Often there won't be a road to them, just a path, and small gardens will drop down the valley sides like an afterthought.


This particular terrace is called Woodside, and the houses must have views across the valley that make the hill climb almost worthwhile. But I still recall the words of my late father-in-law to his daughter many years ago when she was singing the praises of a similar house: "Nay lass, tha' couldn't push a pram up there!”


As the lanes and paths wind their way up the valley side you keep being presented with new vistas. Within yards - within moments - these can change from soot-encrusted terraces of Yorkshire stone to weed-framed mock-meadows that look as though they have escaped from a "Country File" calendar.



And occasionally you will get an overview which can dampen any trace of pointless nostalgia. The workhouse doesn't exist anymore, many of the houses you can see dotted throughout the landscape are new, bright, clean houses. And that mill down in the valley houses a smart restaurant and wine bar, not a gang of disease ridden children chained to looms.

And then there are the trees. There is a 1931 aerial image of West Vale in the "Britain From Above" series, and you need to search it for some time before you come across a tree. Now, the hillsides are lush with vegetation and trees help mask some of the worst legacies of our industrial past.


As you near the steepest part of the hill climb, some local wit has managed to manufacture a reasonably accurate road sign, and pinned it to a convenient lamp-post. It shows you the way to the end of the walk. "Up't hill" it says, just in case the muscles on the back of your legs are beginning to suspect you might have taken a wrong turning. And so you carry on until you have finished going up't hill from West Vale.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Up't Hill From West Vale


We took a walk the other day: taking us from West Vale up the steep incline of Hullen Edge to Elland, which is perched on the top of the valley of the River Calder. In Yorkshire terms, the walk could be described as "Up't Hill from West Vale". West Vale itself is neither a town nor a village - I suppose if you had to call it anything it is a settlement, or more accurately you could say it is an intersection. There are a lot of roads (which are still busy), and a lot of churches and chapels (which are mainly empty of they have been converted into other uses). And there are a lot of houses, many of which are in terraces which have been pinned to the steep hillsides with some kind of gravity-defying superglue. 

The first photograph shows the imposing building that was originally the Church of St John the Evangelist. Built in 1882, it managed to survive - first good times and then leaner times - until it finally closed its doors for religious purposes exactly 100 years after it opened them. Now it is a "Business Centre”, and office space can by hired by any firm seeking economic salvation.


Just around the corner from St Johns That Was is another imposing building from the same era - the Mechanics Institute and Council Offices That Were. The evidence of its former glory is gradually flaking away. Soon, nothing will be left but a memory and a Grade II listed exterior that seems difficult to fill with twenty-first century activities.


.... to be continued

Monday, May 15, 2017

20 Images : 20. Major Oak, Sherwood Forest

20 IMAGES : 20. MAJOR OAK, SHERWOOD FOREST


So at the end of our odyssey we find ourselves sat under a tree in Sherwood Forest. There are a few interesting connections caught up in this last image. First of all, the major oak is in Sherwood Forest and legend has it that it was where Robin Hood and his Merry Men sheltered when hiding from the Sheriff of Nottingham (when they were not sheltering in the Tap Room of the Robin Hood in Brighouse). Secondly, it is not that many miles away from Radford Road in Nottingham where we started this curious twenty-image journey. Finally, some people have been kind enough to say that this particular picture reminded them of me and I assumed that was a reference to the serene gent in the flat cap sat under the tree. Then, however, I read the Wiki description of the Major Oak - "it weighs 23 tons and has a girth of 33 feet" - and I realised that this might be the connection being referred to.

If you had told me three weeks ago that this expedition would finish under the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, I would have been as surprised as you. There was no grand plan in mind, although I have tried to build in a loose connection between one image and the next. This should have left me a thousand miles away from where I began - but it didn't: it left me just down the road. The only map of the journey is this map of connections. It is both an image-map and a map of the imagination.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

20 Images : 19. The Robin Hood Pub, Brighouse

20 IMAGES : 19. ROBIN HOOD PUB, BRIGHOUSE

Yesterday's image was taken from a 1954 film entitled "Siege At Red River". A few years earlier, the same studio released a film called "Red River Robin Hood", which shared nothing with its later cinematic cousin other than half a title. The connection also allows us to return to England from America and, en route to our final destination, call off for a pint at the Robin Hood pub in Brighouse. In reality, this is not as easy as it might sound as they pulled the place down a couple of weeks ago, leaving a rubble-filled, dust-coated potential development opportunity where a well-loved local used to be. Luckily, I live my life in line with a number of philosophical precepts - one of the most important of which is "never walk past a pub without taking a photo of it as it might not be there the next time you pass!"

The name of the pub comes from the supposed site of Robin Hood's grave a couple of miles down the road. Legend has it that near the end, Robin went in search of Maid Marion who had become a nun in Kirklees Nunnery. He was killed before he got there, and fired a famous last arrow to identify the place he should be buried, which turned out to be just off a lay-by on the A644. I used to say that he would have been better off stopping off at the Robin Hood for a pint, but given recent events, it would have been a sad end for him to have been crushed to death by a bulldozer.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

20 Images : 18. Siege At Red River

20 IMAGES : 18.  SIEGE AT RED RIVER

Of course, Indians go with cowboys like Sepia goes with Saturday. So following yesterday's wonderful studio portrait of a Native American, we seamlessly move on to a cinema still photograph from the 1954 movie "Siege At Red River".  I went through a phase recently of buying random movie stills - the kind that were displayed outside cinemas to tempt people to come and see the film they were advertising. The quality of the original photograph is usually good enough to produce an excellent scan and the images themselves are normally well out of copyright.

This particular image shows a trio of Hollywood stars - Van Johnson, Joanne Dru and Richard Boone - who are all involved in efforts to make sure that a Civil War Gatling Gun doesn't fall into the hands of Chief Yellow Hawk of the Sioux Nation (the philosophical and moral rationale for their actions is another question, but let us for the moment limit ourselves to the image).

The image does not only fit in with my convoluted passage through the twenty images I am featuring on News From Nowhere at the moment, it also - by a spoonful of design and a shovelful of happenstance - fits in with this week's Sepia Saturday theme image, which is a cinema still featuring an earlier generation of Hollywood talent.

You can see more variations of this Sepia theme by visiting the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links. You can see where this convoluted journey on mine finishes by returning to News From Nowhere over the next couple of days.

Friday, May 12, 2017

20 Images : 17. Yumqas-Mamalenkala

20 IMAGES : 17. YUMQAS-MAMALENKALA

In the Victorian and Edwardian era everyone was drawn towards the photographic studios that sprung up in most cities, towns and villages throughout the western world. In the early days it would be the aristocrats, followed by the respectable middle classes and then - as techniques improved and prices came down - it would be the working class. There was also a positive effort to capture the images of people, customs and scenes before they disappeared forever.

Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868-1952) was an American photographer and ethnologist who started his photographic career - like so many others in this period - by establishing a local studio and selling card-mounted prints of anyone who had a few dollars to spare. By 1895 he had developed a passionate interest in photographing Native Americans - attempting to capture elements of a culture which was rapidly vanishing all around him. This wonderful image, entitled Yumqas-Mamalenkala, dates from 1914 - a time when Curtis was also beginning to experiment with the new technology of cinematography.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

20 Images : 16. The Parisian School Of Photography

20 Images : 16. THE PARISIAN SCHOOL OF PHOTOGRAPHY


Towards the end of the nineteenth century, art nouveau seemed to percolate everywhere - whether it was on the signs outside pubs or the lettering on the back of studio mounts. So often with Victorian Carte de Visites and Cabinet Cards, it is the design on the back of the card which is more visually exciting than the face of the sitter on the front of the card.  There is an odd contrast between the stern and starched Victorian subjects - the women coated in crinolines, the men framed with beards and whiskers - and the riotous gaiety of the studio details on the back of the card. Here nymphs sprout flowers and typefaces drip with tendrils: this is not the punchy advertising of modern copywriters, but advertising that gently blows on the hairs at the back of your neck.

My image today is taken from the back of just one such Victorian photograph (the subject, alas, is too boring to comment upon), which I bought from a junk shop for a few pence. As the wording says, "Copies can be had at any time": - just right click your mouse and choose "copy".

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

20 Images : 15. Saloon Bar Sign, The Black Friar, London

20 Images : 15. Saloon Bar Sign, The Black Friar, London


"If you only get the chance to visit one London pub", I would tell my London visitors forty years ago, "make it the Black Friar". It is certainly not the oldest pub in London by any stretch of the imagination: even in your wildest dreams you can't imagine Johnson and Boswell drinking a Campari and Soda there. It is not the best known - it is not on the main tourist trail and you will need to read the small print in the guide books before finding mention of it. Nor has it been held in reverence for centuries: the fact of the matter is that it was almost demolished in the 1960s and only survived after a spirited fight by a coalition of supporters that included pub-lovers, architectural historians and lovers of eccentricity of all sorts.

Situated within a yard of ale of Blackfriars Bridge, the pub was built in the early years of the twentieth century and decorated in the Art Nouveau style that was popular at the time. The theme for the internal - and to a certain extent the external - decoration is the old Dominican friary that stood on the site six hundred years earlier - thus, yet again celebrating that symbiosis between beer and worship that seems to be a continuing theme. My picture shows just one of the external signs that points patrons in the direction of the saloon bar. I will neither show nor describe what you will find inside - to discover that you will have to go yourself. And believe me, you will thank me for it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

20 Images : 14. Former United Reform Chapel, Bradford

20 Images : 14. Former United Reform Chapel, Simes Street, Bradford


Like Dr. Samuel Johnson, I am not very good on religions. Not that, like him, I go around fondling Methodists! It is simply that I am unsure about the correct boundaries between denominations. I took this photograph of an abandoned chapel in Bradford a couple of years ago and assumed at the time that it would be a Methodist Chapel. To me Chapel and Methodist go together like Johnson and Boswell. Even though the building has been empty for some time, there is a no-nonsense solidity about it, which also brings to mind Methodist preachers from my youth. When I looked into the history of the building, I discovered that it was not a former Methodist Chapel but a former United Reformed Chapel. Thinking these might be the same, I dug a little further, to discover that the United Reformed Church was created by a merger between the Presbyterians and the Congregationalists and should not be confused with the United Methodists: who in turn should not be confused with either the Wesleyan Methodists or the Primitive Methodists.

If you are seriously confused you can always turn to Dr Johnson's monumental English Dictionary for  further information. He defines a Methodist as follows: "One of a new kind of Puritans; so called for their profession to live by rules and in constant method" I can only assume that Dr Johnson gleaned that information following his encounter with the two young women from Staffordshire.

Monday, May 08, 2017

20 Images : 13. Boswell And Johnson At The Mitre

20 Images : 13. Boswell And Johnson At The Mitre


On my organised tours of London pubs, my presentation skills were occasionally impaired by too great an appreciation of the product being sampled. I always found that, whenever my normal flow of historical anecdotes began to dry up, they could easily be replenished with a story about Dr Samuel Johnson. Most London pubs worth their salted peanuts would have a roped-off chair which would claim to have been the regular seat of Dr Johnson. Many a bar would be named after the Doctor and his erstwhile biographer, James Boswell. Several tap rooms would have signs pointing out that it was in that very bar that Johnson defined some word or other for his famous dictionary.

My image today is taken from an article about Johnson which was published in The Illustrated London News in January 1852. It shows Johnson and Boswell at the Mitre Tavern, one of the pubs I used to visit on my tour. My little printed guide would include short quotations which were apposite for each of the locations we visited. For the Mitre Tavern I included the following extract from Boswell's great "Life Of Samuel Johnson".  "Two young women from Staffordshire visited Dr Johnson when I was present, to consult him on the subject of Methodism, to which they were inclined. "Come", said he, "you pretty fools, dine with Maxwell and me at the Mitre, and we will talk over the subject", which they did, and after dinner he took one of them on his knee and fondled her for half an hour". Now who does that remind you of?

Sunday, May 07, 2017

20 Images : 12. A Tour Of Noted Inns And Taverns

20 Images : 12. A Tour Of Noted Inns And Taverns


When it comes to mixing drinking and work I must confess to being a serial offender. Back in 1976 I was living and working in London: my day job was at the Labour Party headquarters in Transport House, and at night I would often earn extra money by taking parties on a tour of "The Noted Inns And Taverns of the City of London and Environs". This was a tour that I devised myself and incorporated a handful of Wren churches, a chapter or two of London history, and an armful of ancient London pubs. I used to provide the tour for overseas academics who were attending courses at London University Institute of Education, and my group of senior educational administrators from around the world would follow me dutifully as I led them to some of the more famous, and some of the less salubrious, inns and taverns of the City. I still have one of the printed programmes I produced for participants which allows me to trace the somewhat wandering route forty years later. The tour was popular with the audience and they would show their appreciation to the guide by never allowing him to buy a drink for himself at any of the stopping-off points. By the end of the evening the historical accuracy off the descriptions may have declined, but the enhanced spirit of bonhomie more than made up for it.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

20 Images : 11. Shall We Go To Another Lecture?

20 Images : 11. Shall We Go To Another Lecture?


Doncaster certainly wasn't Cambridge, but just like these Cambridge students featured in an article from Picture Post in June 1939 entitled "A Day In The Life Of A Cambridge Undergraduate",  my students we often faced with the dilemma of attending another of my somewhat tedious lectures or going to the pub for a lunchtime pint. Often a clever compromise would be found and I would join them at the pub and explain the concept of opportunity cost whilst downing a pint and eating a bag of dry roasted peanuts.

Our pub of choice was "The Sun Inn" which was about a mile down the road from the college. This was far enough away from the campus to avoid the eyes of senior management but close enough so a speedy return could be made too the classroom if necessary. "Opportunity cost" I would explain whilst a grateful student went to the bar to replenish my glass, "is the cost of not doing the alternative choice available to us". "The opportunity cost of going to a lecture, is not going to the pub", I would add as I took a sip from my new pint glass ... "that is unless you manage to discover a way of combining the two!"

Friday, May 05, 2017

20 Images : 10. Scawsby College (1981)vc

20 Images : 10. Scawsby College (1981)


I am told that what we call soap isn't really soap. Equally, I am given to understand that what we call chalk - the sticks of stuff you write on blackboards with - are not chalk at all, but gypsum (which may have been mined from Mam Tor or may not, but that is besides the point).  For fifteen years of my adult life I worked at what they call "the chalkface", and my clothes would have a permanent deposit of chalk dust (or gypsum dust) upon them.

Scawsby College was part of Doncaster Metropolitan Institute of Higher Education, and I was a lecturer in the Department of Management Studies. Luckily few asked me what management studies were, which is just as well as I had no real idea. My chalk-filled days were occupied with teaching economics and industrial relations to both managers and trade unionists. My qualifications for such a role were to have avoided working in industry by reading text books on economics. When not chalking demand and supply diagrams on blackboards, I would sit in my office, smoke the occasional cigar, and listen to the complete recordings of Duke Ellington on my little cassette recorder. In retrospect, I have to confess that i was a strange life.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

20 Images : 9. Greetings From Castleton

20 Images : 9. Greetings From Castleton


Gypsum - which gets made into plasterboard at the factory in Sherburn-in-Elmet - comes from a variety of locations, one of which is the north Midlands and Derbyshire. The town of Castleton in Derbyshire is famous for its mineral mines, in particular the famous Blue John mines, but at one time or another limestone, lead, galena and gypsum have been mined in the area around Mam Tor. Less than fifty miles south of Castleton is the brewing town of Burton-on-Trent and it is often claimed that it is the gypsum which is dissolved into the local water which gives Burton beers their unique taste. The postcard which is the basis of today's image is unused and undated, but from the quality and type of printing it is probably from the 1930s

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

20 Images : 8. St Joseph The Worker, Sherburn.

20 Images : 8. St Joseph The Worker, Sherburn.


The other day I was in the village of Sherburn-in-Elmet and I came across a church dedicated to St Joseph The Worker. I freely confess that I am not the most well-informed individual when it comes to the lives of the great saint, but this particular appellation was new to me. It was, however, quite fitting for the local area because, despite its rural sounding name, Sherburn-in-Elmet is quite a little hive of industrial activity. During the Second World War the Blackburn Aircraft Company made the famous Fairey Swordfish plane hereabouts, and today Optare manufacture buses and Sainsbury's distributes products from large factories and depots here. One company that is very active in Sherburn-in-Elmet is British Gypsum which manufacture the kind of plasterboard that would have been used by the plasterers in the photograph from yesterday.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

20 Images : 7. The Plasterers by Geoff Beaumont

20 Images : 7. The Plasterers by Geoff Beaumont


Industry doesn't have to be pollution-creating, poverty-making, resource-exploiting desecration. There can be an honesty in craft, a beauty in a job well done. This does not simply apply to the medieval stone mason, or even the twentieth century plasterer, but also to the twenty-first century web-designer or whatever else people do in this day and age. The image today is one of the late Geoff Beaumont's - one that I took away from the display of his work at his funeral when we were all invited to take some of his prints home with us. I am not sure of the circumstances surrounding the taking of the photograph, but I wouldn't be surprised if these two chaps were plastering Geoff's new bathroom when - like all good photographers - he saw a photograph and rushed to get his camera to capture it.

Monday, May 01, 2017

20 Images : 6. Atlantic Richfield Company Share Certificate

20 Images : 6. Atlantic Richfield Company Share Certificate


It is all very well somebody wittering on about "the beauty of manufactured grandeur", but you might take some convincing if you live next door to a chemical works or oil derricks spread from your garden lawn like tar-soaked sunflowers. Beauty and industry are not only strange bed-fellows, but also only very occasional ones. Corporate industry, however, is always keen to ally itself with the classical concept of beauty, and no more so than on share and stock certificates. The image today is a detail from a 100 share stock certificate which was issued by the Atlantic Richfield Company of Pennsylvania. Industry is portrayed as a cinema starlet with flowing skirts embracing the entire globe in her entrepreneurial passion. As far as I can make out, that passion was, in reality, limited to building petrol filling stations across the cities and plains of America.