walking picture

Manchester or Blackpool?

Cooper and sons Blackpool carte de visite.jpg

This carte de visite portrait is typical of hundreds of thousands produced at the turn of the Nineteenth Century. It makes a real contrast to the informal street photographs which feature on this site and became popular two decades or so later. The three lads, who could be brothers, they look very alike, are fairly formally dressed but the straw hats give the game away; they’re on holiday in Blackpool. At least I assume so, but as it was taken in the studios of Cooper and Sons, who had addresses in Manchester (at Upper Jackson Street in fact, close to where I spent my student days) and Blackpool, it’s just possible the set up was made to mimic the seaside. The painted canvas backdrop depicts a seaside bay (which was my interest in the image), and while the cheap chairs and tatty flooring suggest perhaps not the swankiest of operations, the portrait is very good quality. The card itself is so decorative, with embossed gold details on the front and an elaborate engraved scene on the reverse, with sort of vaguely greek fashion overtones mixed in with the Victorian imagery and the strange butterfly winged naked boy photographer.
We do not know who the lads are, and probably never will. Thousands of these cards circulate today, torn out of large photo albums by dealers who should know better, and so losing any context they might have had.

Cooper and sons Blackpool back.jpg

There are more examples on the site, including those below:





Palace Pier

Brighton Palace Pier couple 1930.jpg

Although this strip of three walking pictures is not identified, the seller was based near Hove and suggested to me that it might be Brighton.  As the town had three piers at one time this was not quite so easy to pin down but I started with the surviving Palace Pier and some digging brought close-ups of the pier decoration which matched exactly.  The elaborate metalwork structures on the left is an arch base, although all but one of these has now been removed.


Although I have a few walkies from the town they are less common than I would expect and these strips are also scarce, and I’ve certainly seen none from Brighton pier before. It is unusual in that the print is around 4″ by 9″.  From the fashions and the style I would date it to the 1930s. Behind the couple is a kiosk selling Cadbury’s ‘Cup’ Chocolate at 3d; this product was certainly on sale in the late 1920s and very popular into the 1950s.

Cadburys Cup Chocolate ad 1930.jpg

The firm who took the walkie is unknown. It seems likely that the print was usually supplied as a smaller size but a larger version like this could be ordered for a little extra.

Happily much of Palace Pier remains as it was, I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few times and lets hope they look after it properly.

Southend On Sea

Southend on Sea.jpg

Despite being a busy resort for Londoners for many years, walking pictures from Southend are quite thin on the ground, and those that I have found have no markings to tell you where they were taken (and have been identified only because they were posted off and carry a postmark). These two well worn walkies actually do have the name of the resort printed on the front, so are quite unusual. They are also dated 1939. I’m not too sure where they were taken, but it may be the old pier head somewhere, all of which has now gone. I assume both were taken on the same holiday but as Mum has a different dress, must be on different days.  They are probably movie camera strips originally but have now become separated.

There is a walkie from Westcliffe on the site,


walking onewalking two

Two surviving frames from a movie camera walking picture strip, with Mum, Dad and what may be identical twin daughters, but where it was taken eludes me, although the distinctive Georgian houses behind them may be familiar to someone.  As was often the case, the daughters are wearing their school blazers as “best”, and all four have taken off heavy coats suggesting the weather is taking  turn for the better.  It probably dates from around 1932.

“Snaps” 1950


If only more firms had thought to add the town and date on their walkies…  Snaps were Bridlington’s longest operating walking picture firm, and moved to smaller half size prints in the 1940s when supplies were still short and the cameramen had moved on to 35mm cameras. I have seen prints like this from 1950 to 1952, probably machine printed, and this is a very typical example.  It is possible Snaps photographers were numbering the prints consecutively through the year. This one is 93,602 but others from 1950 go back to 6,234. If so, this suggests they took nearly 100,000 prints in 1950.  It is an enormous figure but roughly equals about 2,000 rolls of self loaded 35mm film, or 40 rolls a week. Some cameramen shot 10 rolls in a morning on a good day, so this could easily be done during the holiday season.  The photograph was taken at the corner of Regent Terrace which is where the amusements now dominate, a favourite spot for Snaps to operate (see today’s view below). The woman, who is certainly giving the camera a look, would have paid 2/6d for the print. Snaps sold them in sets of three by this time, and this one has survived almost 70 years until ending up in a house clearance.

There is more on the history of Snaps on the site, and further examples in the Go Home On A Postcard book.

Bridlington sea front shops.jpg

This shows the same spot today, many of those older buildings survive but are clad in nasty boxy facades.  How nice would it be for the council to encourage a rethink here?

Birmingham calling

Birmingham writing.jpg

Just a regular small walking picture, from a strip taken before WW2. But one of the two gents has written in pen on the back “Corporation Street, Birmingham” and the date, 1936. So this is the first confirmed walkie I have from this large city, which would have been almost impossible to identify otherwise. Urban walkies are much less common than seaside ones, so it’s good to be able to add another to the growing list, although we will probably never know much about the photographer or indeed the people walking along a very busy street on that Friday lunchtime 80 years ago.

Birmingham 1936.jpg

More in hope than expectation I had a look to see if I could discover what the site looks like today, but needless to say being Birmingham NOTHING remains from this entire view. There are just a few old photos to show us how fabulous it once looked like. And it’s no good blaming the War, the city still attacks its architectural heritage ignoring wiser advice, witness the great modernist library they ripped down recently. Philistines. Probably best mates of the same idiots in charge of destroying Sheffield.

corporation street old view.jpg


Skeg Cards (from Skegness if you hadn’t guessed!) have been documented on the site before but this particularly nice example came my way recently. Sometimes a walkie just catches your attention, and this is one such. The young girl just looks so excited to be both on holiday and having her photo taken. I cannot make my mind up whether the couple are her parents or perhaps Grandparents. They look a little austere at first glance but once you get past the gent’s now deeply unfashionable moustache, he is on the verge of a smile and his partner appears to have just realised what is going on.


Technically it also stands out, with the trio highlighted against a misty faded background. I suppose it’s possible someone in the darkroom spent a few seconds “dodging” to increase the contrast, but it is likely to be a happy accident.
The image was marked “unknown” when I bought it, but the view looked familiar. Sure enough the large building behind them is the old Pier Hotel at Skegness. If that wasn’t enough, the girl is holding a holiday regulation wooden spade but also an unusual metal seaside bucket, more like a small milk pail, and this has the words “Present From Skegness” printed on the side.
Skeg cards were in business from around 1920 and took walkies near and on the town’s first pier. They did not mark their cards, but the neatly hand written reference number jotted down is typical of their output. I imagine this must be circa 1924 or so. More potential customers can be seen behind them, in what looks to be the early morning.
He is dressed down, no tie and white shoes, but the older woman, smothered in a huge fur stole of some sort, is not exactly beach ready so I assume the next port of call was to hire a deckchair before sandcastle building could ensue.

hand tinted!

tinted walkie

This would have been a great walkie originally, but then someone young has been let loose with the hand tinting set and this garish image is the result! At first I assumed the little girl was the woman’s child (and perhaps the guilty party!) but having looked more carefully I think there is actually another adult hidden behind her, holding the dog lead and a pink basket. The image is post-WW2 but looks older, and I cannot make out where it was taken although the level ground around the cliffs near Margate might be a possibility.
I played with the mono levels and you can begin to see the original image below. Most walking picture firms offered a professional hand tinting service but I have seen very few of these, perhaps the price put people off plus most people bought these on impulse, and would not have wanted (or been heading home) to wait for them to be coloured. There are some proper examples in the Go Home On A Postcard book!

mono version

Early walkie


Most walking pictures date from the early 1920s onwards, with just two in my archive from before WW1. This looks to be a third. The card is very faded and frustratingly has no location or indication of which firm took it. Not does it carry the usual reference number, just a regular postcard printed back. But it clearly is a commercial walking picture from the composition and the way the woman is looking with curiosity at the camera, he waving his stick in the general direction seems to be trying to ignore it. The dating comes from her fashions, and also his collar.
Being so early, it is before negative numbering had come into use on walking pictures, and the couple were probably just informed where they could see the print on display later in the day (maybe in the kiosk in the background), and did indeed go and buy it.
It’s not a brilliant image but that’s mostly because it probably wasn’t processed as well as it could be, so it is now a very pale sepia colour which I’ve had to work on in Photoshop to increase the contrast.
The view has a south coast feel to it, but the depth of field is quite shallow so everything behind the couple is very out of focus. If the area looks familiar to anyone do get in touch!  There is a hi-resolution version in the Go Home On A Postcard book.