vintage seaside portrait photographs


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!

Empire expands

Empire Films, walking picture

I have looked at Empire films on this site before. They were based in Clacton, however Empire walkies keep turning up which clearly are not from there. Here are two more from a walkies strip which I picked up recently. The background buildings suggest somewhere quite small and quaint, there is a sign for a Tea Garden up the stone steps on the right, and the walkway is elevated, with those traditional seaside iron railings stopping you falling into the road.

Empire Films, walking picture

One frame has been marked in ink with a cross, earmarked for keeping perhaps, or sending to a friend. I would guess at husband and wife and her sister but they all seem set for a sit and a read somewhere.

Westham Bridge, Weymouth, walking picture, 1930s, mum and pram

Susan Ashton has also been trying to find the location for two Empire walkies she has, one of which is dated 1936 on the back. Had I found these walkies in a pile of snaps I would have guessed at a family group, but in fact her Mum – who is the young girl on the right in both pictures – was kindly taken on holiday by her neighbours. But where? Susan rightly agreed it wasn’t Clacton. There were some clues which might help; the distinctive church in the background and the wide bridge they are walking over, although there was a chance it had been replaced in the meantime. But in the second photograph was a bus with the destination board which read Westham on it.

Westham Bridge, Weymouth, walking picture, 1930s, old bus

The only Westham I could find (apart from London – and as they were carrying beach spades that seemed unlikely!) was near Eastbourne, a popular town for walkie photographers. I could not find a bridge or church like this in the area so emailed the Eastbourne Local History Society and they kindly asked their members. They said it wasn’t Eastbourne but Alan Brooker found a Westham in Weymouth and suggested I try that. A few moments looking for this on Bing Maps showed a likely looking bridge and then an image search threw up this old photo of Westham Bridge and the church in the distance; mystery solved. Memo to self, do not rely on the web to find suburbs, dig out the trusty old Reader’s Digest map and gazetteer of the British Isles in future.

Westham Bridge, Weymouth

The concrete bridge still strides over Radipole Lake, but is now stopped to traffic and used as a carparking area. I have marked the church from the original walkie in red. All the entertainments which once drew visitors to the area, including a miniature railway and a small circus, were swept away by road development and the church is now obscured by a big development of flats (I have walkies taken by the railway there by a firm called Guy’s Snaps which are on the site).

Westham Bridge, Weymouth

But if the location is now confirmed it means the story of Empire Films is not as simple as first thought. They are known to have taken walkies in Norwich, and possibly Bournemouth too. And if they were operating as far away from Clacton as Weymouth, how was the company set up, and where else did they have photographers?  Do let me know if you have any walkies by the firm which are named.

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


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