Empire Films took walkies in Clacton On Sea during the Thirties, and we have added a short history of the firm to our site.
This walking picture image sent to me by Clive Tomlin is proving difficult to pinpoint. It’s by the short lived walkie firm Spotlight Photos Ltd. Spotlight operated in several towns and cities but never identified their locations. They always took three sequential frames on a postcard print, and held back the exposure at the side of the card to show the film sprockets. This one is very typical, although one frame has been clipped off to give to a friend or relative. Clive knows the woman is his Grandmother and would have been in her late Fifties at the time. As she lived in Leicester he wonders if this was taken there?
I have had a quick look around Leicester on Street View but coverage is limited due to pedestrianisation while so many buildings have gone what looks like a bank behind her may have been demolished.
If anyone does happen to recognise it do get in touch! There is more about Spotlight on the site.
This is quite a late walking picture, which I was trying to date recently. The scene (not to mention the single stipe buttoned top) had a very sixties look about it, and the postcard size print was still in the original Barkers of Great Yarmouth wallet. The pre-decimal prices in the back put it at no later than 1969. But it was the cars in the background which narrowed it down even further, as amongst the Ford Zodiacs and Morris Minors there is a Ford Cortina Mk 2 parked up, a model which was first produced in 1966.
So the photo must be from between ’66 and ’69.
In the background is the viewing tower, now known as the Atlantic Tower, which was erected in the Sixties so must have been quite new at the time. The current owners have “refurbished” the place and rather ruined it’s concrete grandeur. But then the the town also lost the previous Victorian revolving tower which went after the War for scrap as the council wouldn’t repair it!
It’s a little difficult to work out exactly where the photo was taken as quite a lot has changed on the seafront here, while the lens foreshortens the view, but the circle on the colour view below must be close to the spot.
I don’t know who the people are, this being a flea market find, but you could imagine oldest son on the left driving his parents over for a day-trip. Mum has a Corgi dog, another pointer to a decade when this breed was very popular.
Barkers have numbered the print in pencil on the back, 15820. And if this seems a high number, Barkers cameramen could easily take 1000 walkies in a single morning.
The company were one of the last firms to take walkies, well into the early Seventies, although by then they had moved over to smaller colour prints. Examples of the firm’s post-war images are on the site and the long history of the firm is also documented.
So far I’ve been able to push walking pictures back to 1913, which is the earliest positively dated card I have found. This pair turned up recently at a flea market, and look very much like early commercial walking pictures (rather than someone snapping a friend with a Box Brownie!). Although there is no obvious reference number, the scowl of the woman and the disinterested look of her companion does not suggest they knew the photographer. But if it is an early walkie, perhaps they were yet to get used to the experience. In contrast the gentleman in the other walkie looks bemused by it all, with a smile on his face.
Dating images like this is never easy, the quality of the photos in not great to begin with and they are quite small (2.5″ by 3.5″). But a check on fashion history sites suggests that the woman’s hat, which has a clearly arched brim and domed top, was in vogue for a short time around 1917-1919, so that could give us a reasonable date for the photos.
I have not yet been able to pin-point the coastal town either, though the rather elaborate hotel (?) building in the background will probably ring a bell with someone – if so drop me a line please!
I recreated this walking photo rack recently to try and get a feel for what it must have looked like for someone passing the kiosk back in the Thirties. I’ve got a lot of walkies from the same spot in Mablethorpe (discussed on the site) and figured they would look great in this old wooden postcard rack which I rescued a few years ago from the Snaps building in Bridlington. Firms also has large glass fronted display cabinets on the promenade or in other prominent places to attract tourists, though I doubt any of these have survived. I did think at first that the rack might have been made locally for the shop but it is quite an intricate construction so perhaps they were produced by specialist shop-fitting firms.
Four walkie pictures turned up recently with the same two women in them. They do look very much like sisters. As the photos were found (and one taken) in Sheffield, I assume one of the ladies was a resident of the city so couldn’t resist a bit of detective work. The photo on the right has the date and ‘Blackpool’ in biro, which gave me a starting clue.
Thanks to Tony Sharkey at the Blackpool Archives, we know two of the photographs were taken on Waterloo Road in Blackpool, which is a main route east west ending at the sea-front. The photo was taken just 250m from Blackpool South railway station (which was originally called Waterloo Road), so the photographer had picked a street which would have been thronged with day trippers anxious to get to the promenade. As we think the women lived in Sheffield, they would probably have journeyed from there to Manchester, then changed for Blackpool.
The photographs, which are 21/2 by 31/2 inches, date from 1951 (Monday October 8th – written in biro on the back) and 1952. Both women have very smart Fifties coats on (compare them to the less fashionable coat being worn by the woman behind them!).
On the other side of the road you can just make out the main Blackpool post-office (which is still there, albeit abandoned by the GPO of course). At first glance you would think the pictures were taken on the same holiday, but there is building work being done on the post office in one, and not the other. So the walkie cameraman must have had his pitch here, close to the Bull Hotel pub, for a couple of seasons at least. The scene today on this spot is not very different.
Tony says he’s seen a lot of walkies taken on this spot, but it’s a first for me. I did find one on the web from the early 1940s (see below) but in the main I suspect they are not easy to identify as there is no company name on the back. So unless someone has captioned them on the back it would be hard to tell where they were taken. Most Blackpool walkies I’ve seen were taken on one of the three piers or on the Promenade by firms like Walkie Snaps (see some examples on the site here).
It is not impossible that the photographer is still around, he would be in his mid-eighties. Be great to have a chat. The women? Well the taller sister got married in 1956, we know as she kept a walkie if herself and her husband on their honeymoon in Scarborough! She became Mrs Milner, but after that we have no more clues.