Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Think Jacksons, Think Osmonds, Think Parsons!

Madame Parsons was Eleanor Parsons from Burnley and her "seven lucky Lancashire lasses" were, in fact, her real daughters - Marguerite, Georgina, Mary, Louisa, Alice and Wilhelmina. There were a couple of sons as well (George and Charles) and a husband and at times they would tour as "the Parsons Family" (think Jacksons, think Osmonds, think Parsons!) I suspect this photograph - which sat in the "cheap stack" at a second-hand shop - dates from the First World War when the father was styled as "Sgt Parsons of the Army Ordinance Corps" was not part of the troupe.

Monday, 29 August 2016

The Ventriloquist Of Cloth Hall Street


The child looks like a ventriloquist's dummy, perched on the arm of her father. More likely, the girl was actually attached to the table with a clamp in order to maintain the necessary stillness the slow shutter requires.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Did They Think?


Did they think all those years ago when they stood, prop-proud, in front of the camera? Did they think that the image of that day would last into a far off century? Those smiles, those frowns, those hopes, those fears! Did they imagine that years into the future they could all be bought for fifty pence in a second-hand shop?

Thursday, 25 August 2016

A Home-Made Victorian Beauty


This is a scan from a whole plate glass negative. Having bought the negative on eBay, the glass got broken in transit through the post but I didn't have the heart to send it back so I stitched it back together digitally. I suspect it is a "home-made" shot rather than a studio shot - that backdrop has the look of the kind of bedspread I would use as a backdrop to my own portraits seventy years after this will have been taken

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

A Perkins Engine And Two Pounds Of Hornimans Tea

Dear Joan,

This is a photograph of mother and I which George took when we went on a omnibus outing from Almiria. it was such a hot day but mother insisted on wearing her big woolen coat - you know what she is like! Some of the hills were so steep I feared the 'bus would not be able to climb them, but George said that it had a Perkins engine (whatever that means!) and it could climb any hill so long as it took it slowly.

We are here for another week before going north and then slowly making our way home. I can't wait to see you again to catch up with all the gossip!

How is Phyllis? I got a letter from her last week but she said nothing about Edward and I don't like asking her direct just in case he has gone and done it again. You know what I mean!!

Mother sends her regards and asks whether you could order her two pounds of Hornimans Tea for when she returns.

Love from


Monday, 22 August 2016

From Victorian Couples To Mining Disasters : The Work Of Warner Gothard

This rather splendid Cabinet Card was produced at the studio of Warner Gothard in Northgate, Dewsbury. Based in nearby Barnsley, Gothard built up a substantial photographic business in Yorkshire and the reverse of the card indicates that he had produced photographs for the Royal family. By the beginning of the twentieth century the firm was producing picture postcards and they specialised in the production of montage views of events such as railway disasters and mining accidents. It is a little unclear who the J. Garratt whose name appears on the foot of the reverse of the photo was - it may be that he was working out of the Dewsbury studio of Warner Gothard.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Greetings To Absent Members

UNKNOWN GROUP PHOTOGRAPH (Early Twentieth Century)

Whenever I acquire a group photograph of unknown origin I try to work out what united the group being photographed. It might be the same place of work, the same school or college, or a shared membership of a club. In this case it looks as though it might be the latter - greetings are being sent to absent members.

The next thing I do is to focus down on the faces. What stories are there? What pasts and what futures?

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Take A Look At Gertie

Take a look at this Carte de Visite bought this week in a second hand shop for 50p. Take a look at this woman, photographed by the Wellingborough photographer Alfred Watts in 1904. Take a look at that pince-nez, held at a slightly jaunty angle to echo the slightly jaunty smile that plays on her lips. Take a look at the lace. Take a look at the face. Scribbled on the back of the photo is her name - Gertie. How could it be anything else? Take a look at Gertie.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Joy Behind Lock And Key

Unknown Family Group : Howe & Hooley, Heaton Park  (1608B4)

The family is grouped around the Victorian patriarch and matriarch. If there was carefree joy in this family it will have been kept behind lock and key in a tantalus.

119 : Three Soldiers

Three Soldiers : Unknown Subjects (c.1940)