vintage seaside portrait photographs


Westcliffe walkie

westcliffe on sea, Southend

This walkie would have been hard to identify but for the fact that someone had scribbled ‘Westcliffe’ in the corner, which helped me identify it.  Westcliffe is a coastal suburb of Southend On Sea, a town which we know had walking picture firms operating. I have identified a couple more, but neither have the firms named, nor does this new card.  Given walkie photographers usually frequented the most popular spots, I tried the main shopping street and it turns out to be Hamlet Court Road, which leads up from the station.  The brick tower with white stone banding in the distance is very hard to miss.
It seems to have been posted along with a couple more walkies inside an envelope to Alice’s friend Ada, and Alice writes in neat script on the back that “These were Sunfilms, taken walking along. Did not know they were being done.”  Alice goes on the explain that her husband’s umbrella is not split, but is just a fault in the photo! She is right, it is a dust speck on the negative, and it does look like a tear, but I’m not sure why she would be so worried about it.

westcliffe on sea, Southend

There is no date on the card but we know it must be pre-1935 as the locally famous China and Glassware shop Havens (established in 1901) built their new store in the block on the right, and it opened in 1935.  Fans of Thirties shop fronts and independent traders will love the fact that it survives and thrives (see photo below) and means I must try and have a look some time. The rest of the street remarkably remains much as it was.
If the walkie is by Sunfilms, then it adds another location for this largely undocumented walking picture firm, which I have featured on this site before.

Havens store westcliffe on sea, Southend

Head in a hole

These ‘head in a hole’ photo boards keep cropping up all over. I saw three when we were over in Montreux recently, here is the blingiest version spotted outside the Casino, which people can use for free with their mobile phones.  This couple will end up with a strange solo shot (I would have offered to take one for them but I was too busy trying to take the photo of them taking a photo!).

head through a hold photo board

There are some vintage ones on this site.

24 frames a second

clacton walking picture 1930s

Returning to the subject of the 3 frame walking picture strips; these are some of my favourite walking pictures, and as explained before on the site (under the Barkers history), they were taken with old adapted movie cameras.  The operator got his subject/s in view, turned the crank, and three exposures were taken in succession.  The end user prints were either on a postcard, or sometimes wider and longer strips. Most were cut up and given to friends, but some survive complete.
But it has taken an email from Andrew Osborne to wake me up to the fact that these strips are in effect 3 frames from a film; he looked at one from his family album and thought “surely you could animate that?”.  As films reply on 24 frames per second, obviously the animation can only give a fraction of a second of apparent motion, but even so the example he sent still comes to life in a quite remarkable way. It’s such an obvious idea I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to try it myself, but now Andrew has led the way, I will certainly be having a go.
Technical tricks aside, as with many walkies, this one has a story, albeit a somewhat poignant one. It shows Andrew’s Grandfather and his wife around 1936 walking along Clacton High Street on holiday, with their new born baby (Andrew’s Uncle). It was their last holiday together. Grandfather worked in the Blue Asbestos factory in Tottenham and contracted Hodgkinson’s disease as a result of his work, and died the following year. As Andrew says, it was very moving for him to see the his Grandparents come to the screen like this.
The strip may have been taken by either Empire or Sunfilms. My thanks to Andrew for letting us show this on the site.


Worthing Pier

The fabulous art deco pier at Worthing has escaped the neglect (or worse) suffered by many similar structures around our coast. The buildings have all been restored and the partition which runs down the pier has been adapted to make a great outdoor display area.  The local arts group Creative Waves works hard to use this and the entire seafront area to put a new project together each summer.  It looks like a model of how to make use of a great resource and help bring people back for a visit.

sunny snaps worthing 1936 mr and mrs marks ashford kent

For 2016 one of the focus points was the seaside postcard, and they asked Go Home On A Postcard to co-operate by sending some of the walking pictures taken in Worthing to use as part of this, which we were happy to do. Worthing was an outpost of the multi-franchised Sunny Snaps walking picture empire, and there were a number to choose from. One of my favourites is shown above, you can read more about the image on our site.
There are all sorts of displays and related art works going on around the pier, including some new takes on those head in a hole boards for people to pose with (they are great to do, but it’s hard to decide exactly what to feature in these more PC times -paintings of knock-kneed Scotsmen or bosomy women in ill-fitting bathing costumes are not likely to get past the local authority these days!).

worthing art on the pier
From this distance (238.2 miles!) it’s a little confusing to work out exactly what’s going on from the Creative Waves website, and they have not sent me any photographs of how the images have been used (so the image above is from an older display), but if I leave it any longer to mention it may all be over! And if you’re in the area it’s a day at the seaside, so what’s not to like?


Walking picture, Sandside, Scarborough

This walkie, and several others taken on the same spot, emerged while I was sorting images recently. Overlooked before, I found eight of them in my ‘unknown’ file, and remembered I had one more on which someone had just written ‘Scarborough 1946’ in pencil on the back. I was a little unsure as it didn’t really look like any view of Scarborough I could recall.
Once all of them were side by side, it was time to look at Google Street. If it was Scarborough I assumed it must be somewhere down near the harbour and quickly found the background building still happily extant. Not only that, but a building of the 1700s listed Grade 2; numbers 32 and 33 Sandside, part of the shipbuilding area of the original town overlooked by the castle.
This area of the town is still very bustling, albeit fairly downmarket with Poundbuster and Factory Outlet type retailers today. The view had escaped me as the walkies were taken looking back into town from the harbourside. The couple may have been off to walk round the headland on Marine Drive, though buses stop here to form a link between the North and South Bays.
All the walkies from this location are off strips of Walking Picture photographic paper, but are otherwise unmarked. They date from 1935 to 1946 and it is not hard to imagine a walking picture firm operating from one of the smaller buildings in this area just before and after the wat, carving out a niche from the two bigger Scarborough walkie operators, North Bay Snaps and the Sun-Ray Photo Co. After the war other smaller firms also started up in Scarborough; we know of Castle Snaps, Holi-Photos and Benson’s (who also had a shop in Bridlington).
As with other strips like this, taken with converted movie cameras which gave smaller negatives, the image quality is less sharp than their bigger rivals but the best of them made nice souvenirs. The youngish couple in this example clearly thought so. Here’s as close as I could get to the view today. There is more about North Bay Snaps, the town’s biggest walkie firm, on the site.

Walking picture, Sandside, Scarborough

Thanks to Ron Cosens



Wardoura Motion PicturesThis unusual walking picture pair came to me recently through Ron Cosens. The walkies were taken by a firm called Wardoura Motion Picture, which is neatly rubber stamped on the back of each frame. They were clearly taken by a converted movie camera, a format used by several walkie firms, probably around 1932. But the cameraman has had time to capture the couple twice as they walked down the pavement, and they bought both strips.
On the whole of the internet I can find only one other reference to a Wardoura walkie, which says it was taken in a place called Bowinemouth. The owner thinks this is in Australia, but there are a couple of vintage references – one from 1927 – to a place called Bowinemouth in Dorset.  However I cannot find any recent references for the place name, so at the moment it has to remain unknown. As for the name Wardoura, it does have a vaguely Australian feel about it but equally might be playing on Wardour Street, the film centre of London before the War. As always if anyone can shed any light on this walkie please get in touch.

School run

Mother and two school children Thirties

The school run … Thirties style. These days looking at this photograph you would think ‘private education’ right away, but I can still recall the daunting multi-page list of kit my parents were faced with when I got into the local grammar school (though in my case it was a striped cap not a straw bonnet!). It’s a good example of the way walkies captured everyday life; it seems very unlikely Mum and her two smartly attired daughters would have ever been photographed on their way to school otherwise.
This is one of a strip of three walkies taken in the Thirties in another unidentified location. I have a few others taken on the same spot, and everything suggests an urban rather than coastal town. The number of trams is one thing, while the general bustle looks more determined than relaxed. The far side of the busy street is tree lined, so may be the edge of a park. The sturdy stone built and soot darkened edge of an important building is the only likely way to tie this in to the scene today, but I’m not holding my breath!