vintage seaside portrait photographs


Walkies book pages

The publishers of the upcoming book devoted to walking pictures (Go Home On A Postcard) have just posted a set of page visuals, and the results look really interesting. We can reproduce one here; to see the rest click on the title link and it will take you straight there. They are planning for a summer publication.

Go Home On A Postcard walking pictures book

All back to Mablethorpe

Mablethorpe pull over 1930

I have shown some of the walking pictures taken on Mablethorpe’s pull-over before and have been keeping an eye out for more. Here are two more recent finds, both taken by Wrates who had a shop and kiosk in the town but were (and still are) based in nearby Skegness. I was in Mablethorpe a few weeks ago and the location has completely changed although amazingly I chatted with a lady whose parents both worked for Wrates in the thirties before setting up in business as photographers on their own.

Mablethorpe pull over 1930s

The pull-over led people to the sea-front shown in the third image, and you can see one of the walking picture kiosks on the left, although I cannot be sure if this was owned by Wrates or not. They are also offering to have your film developed and printed in two hours.
These elegant wooden kiosks have gone and been replaced with very tatty albeit better protected modern buildings as seen in the colour snap.

Mablethorpe sea front then and now

Mablethorpe sea front then and now

Mablethorpe walkies over the years also feature in a YouTube video I have put together.


Pigeons Trafalgar Square, 1950s

While walking picture are by far the most numerous of the informal street souvenir photographs, cameramen were quick to exploit any opportunity and Trafalgar Square has been a tourist destination for many years.  It has also been a destination for many of the local pigeons and they became very used to people, so ‘having your photo taken with the pigeons’ has been going on since Victorian times. While some people took their own shots, street photographers have also been on hand in the square. I’ve no idea how they operated, though would imagine they used one of the ‘develop and print while you wait systems’ such as the Aptus camera, as tourists would be unlikely to want to come back later to buy a print. This is one such postcard of a smart couple from the late Fifties by the look of it, and I’m keeping my eye out for more so do get in touch if you have any.

Three ladies, Skegness

Three ladies, walking, Skegness 1930s

I’ve marked this great walkie simply as “Three ladies, Skegness” because try as I might I have not been able to pin down the street. It’s clearly not the front Parade as both sides of the street here are developed. Numerous streets in the town were tree lined too, so that doesn’t help. The only slight clues are the wooden fence panels and the car-park sign on the left. These panels appear in another walkie I have (see below) and I assumed they were the entrance to the Tower Gardens but if so, I can’t spot any old views which confirm this. The second view (which is probably earlier as the reference number is hand-written in the corner) might even be a different street, as the Gardens had several entrances, but for now it will have to remain a small mystery. I did have a walk round the park on a recent visit but couldn’t spot any clues.

Four ladies, walking, Skegness 1930s
Puzzle aside, the walkie is by the local firm of Wrates and looks mid-Thirties to me, though maybe fashion experts could narrow it down. Anyhow, proof that summers years ago were always better if you ask me.

The story of Wrates is covered on the site.


With three piers and millions of visitors, Blackpool was a hive of Walking Picture activity for a long time, but fewer turn up compared to places like Cleethorpes or Margate. I suspect this is because many were taken by a company called Walkie Snaps, who sold small half postcard size prints. But the two walkies here are of a higher quality. Neither were identified but the seller thought one was Blackpool, and although the building behind them has some changes in decor, it is clearly the same one in both photographs. The Hotel in the far background is recognisable as the Metropole, and the monument is Blackpool’s Cenotaph, both of which are still standing. Which identifies this as the North Pier, specifically the east end nearest the town.

Blackpool walking picture 1930s North Pier

It looks to me as if the group of five well dressed women is the older of the two, maybe early 1930s against late 30s for the other? It’s a really nice image though, they seem to have just left the restaurant and spotted the photographer just as he takes the shot – with the last of the group making some comment to the couple by the door and the well-dressed woman looking directly at the lens exuding an air of forbearance. Both at the photographer and the weather perhaps.

The two couples in the other image have been caught rounding the end of the building, which is probably why it was a popular lurking spot for the photographer (despite the evidence of a good breeze blowing in both instances). There is a clear reduction in quality between the two photographs as well.

Blackpool walking picture 1930s North Pier

The building itself has very little resemblance to the spot today, but the iron seating and pier remain, now listed. Both photographs are printed on postcard paper, but neither have been posted – although someone has put an address in Doncaster on the second card in pencil, but perhaps changed their mind – and used the rest to tot up a bill of some sort instead.


skegness walking picture with dog Another holiday moment, with this walkie taken on Lumley Road in Skegness (you’d be hard put to recognise the view now, most of the buildings have gone), capturing Mother and daughter on their way to the seafront (the girl on the left has a beach towel under her arm), with pet dog leading the way. They’ve purchased a postcard of the clock-tower too. How do we know?  Because if you look closely, the dog is carefully carrying it!

Tower Esplanade

Skegness – the coastal resort of choice for most of Nottinghamshire – was always a step too far for our family seaside trips from Sheffield (plus I had a Gran in Bridlington – how good was that?) So apart from a quick late afternoon peek at Gibraltar Point nature reserve a few years back, it’s taken me until a couple of weeks ago to actually get a proper look round the place and research some of the walking pictures from the town.

Skegness Tower Esplanade Cafe Danson 1940s

This particular walkie shows a young toddler called Garth Newton, determined to test his spade in the beach – just a hundred yards further on at the end of the Tower Esplanade in Skegness, though it probably seemed a lot longer! It was taken around 1946, and Garth’s Dad is holding the bucket. The firm who took it is unknown, though it would have been one of a strip of three originally.
I contacted Garth about a walking photo which he had on his family tree on the web. He couldn’t find it right away, but kindly went through the rest of his family photos and unearthed around fifty walking pictures. Nearly every one was taken in Skegness, many were still in their wallets, and he let me borrow them to scan for the Go Home On A Postcard Archive (as I am rather grandly calling the collection these days.)
His Mum and Dad must have really liked getting these pictures, often there are three or four from the same holiday.  The small walkie above is one of the earliest, and they continued to buy them for the next twenty five years.

Skegness Foreshore Centre 1950s

The second walkie shows Garth with his Mum and Dad in almost exactly the same spot about ten years later, having just got a modest sized ice-cream cornet (compare to the mega-sized offerings kids get today). This postcard walkie is by the best-known of the Skegness firms, Wrates, who worked in the trade for fifty years.  Their tell-tale automatic numbering window is visible bottom right, although on this occasion it seems not to have worked!  You can see the famous clock tower in the distance, and the now-demolished Osbert Hotel on the right.
Tower Esplanade still runs down from the Skegness clock tower to the seafront, and being so busy was a favourite spot for walking picture cameramen from Wrates and others.
The building on the left in both photos dates from 1911 and originally housed The Café Danson.  It was later known as the Foreshore Centre which offered first-aid, information, left luggage office and a lost children’s shelter. It appeared in thousands of walkies until it was demolished in 1971 (incredibly the site has been empty ever since.)

Skegness Tower Esplanade 1950s

Skegness Tower Esplanade 1930s

The black and white view of the street I’ve marked where Garth and his parents would have been when the pictures were taken, while the commercial postcard shows the building from the town looking out to the sea-front.

Wrates seaside photographer Skegness Tower Esplanade 1960s

Lastly a rather unique image; the loneliness of the long-distance walkie cameraman.  This photo was taken from the top of the Foreshore Centre and shows one of the Wrates cameramen on duty in his striped blazer in the early Sixties. It looks like it was taken early-morning with the first trippers heading for the beach.  It’s possible he may have photographed Garth and his parents on one of their visits.
This is one of a number of archive images which Wrates (who are still going strong, albeit no longer taking walkies) have loaned me and which I will use to help update the firm’s story on the site.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers