North Bay Snaps, Scarborough
It’s no surprise that the busy East Yorkshire coastal town of Scarborough should have produced an enormous number of Walking Pictures. A spa town back in the mid-1600s, Scarborough grew into a mainstream tourist destination after the opening of railway links to Manchester and Leeds in the mid-1800s. The railway was quickly followed by a couple of big hotels and then areas of large elegant terraced townhouses. By the turn of the nineteenth century Scarborough had two dozen regular photographic studios to provide the new permanent and temporary residents with portraits.
Needless to say the opportunities for the emerging walking picture craze come the 1920s were huge and we know of five different firms operating in this area, though not all were going at the same time. Between the first and second world wars, Topical Pictures and Sun Ray Photo Co. were in business, Topical at least until the start of WW2. After the war other names appear, Photo Casino Co. Ltd. (they may just have taken pictures of customers to the Casino complex on the North Bay) and Holi-Photos in the early 50s, as well as Benson Photographic Services in the mid-fifties (Benson also had premises in Bridlington, the next major town down the coast, and operated there well into the sixties.) By far the most widespread of the Scarborough walkie firms though appears to be North Bay Snaps.
Scarborough has two large bays, separated by a large promentory on which the castle was built. The North Bay was – and indeed still is to some degree – regarded as the quieter, more genteel end and North Bay Snaps concentrated their walkies operation there. That doesn’t mean the area wasn’t packed with visitors on a busy weekend, as the view above shows. Sun-Ray, the other long established firm before the war, seems to have worked on the South Bay, which had the town, amusements, spa and other attractions for the visitor. It’s possible the two firms had an agreement not to encroach on each other’s patch.
The earliest dated walkie by North Bay Snaps I have seen is from 1928. The firm was still in business during early WW2, photographs of troop regiments taken by them exist (one of which credits photographer C. E. Eyre), but the London Gazette points to the Limited Company being wound up in February 1941 (I have seen no post-war cards by the company). According to the register of companies North Bay Snaps were taken off the list as late as 1969.
Most of the North Bay Snaps walking pictures seem to have been taken at the north end of Royal Albert Drive. Lots of them show single deck coaches. The original Clifton Hotel on the top of the grass covered cliff rising up from the beach and promenade is also visible in many cards, as is a short funicular railway (opened in 1930) which was here until quite recently (and seen in the example below). Today a very mediocre looking new hotel called The Sands fills the spot where the coaches dropped people off (couldn’t they come up with anything more imaginative for such a crucial spot ?).
I did correspond with one regular Scarborough visitor who told me one of the North Bay Snaps kiosks is still in situ but so far I have not been able to work out which building this is (a good excuse for another day trip I think). However they also had an outlet at 15 Eastborough, close to the harbour, while their main studio was at 22 North Marine Parade (according to Ron Cosens.)
As well as regular walkies, North Bay Snaps also took lots of photographs in nearby Peasholm Park, just in from the beach. People in boats on the lake or riding the miniature railway were popular subjects (people who have fond memories of the park – as I do – will be glad to know it has had a lot of restoration work in recent years, and yes, those amazing miniature naval battles are still re-enacted during the holiday season on the lake). North Bay Snaps also took static photographs of family groups on the beach itself and in the corner cafe (see below). All the North Bay cards are of a very good technical quality, sharp and generally well printed.
To help people date cards, the earliest have reference numbers scratched into the negative as many firms did (see first image). The backs of these cards do not have a regular postcard layout, just the words “The North Bay Snaps, Scarborough” printed right across. So the firm was clearly selling these as souvenirs for visitors rather than cards to send. I have seen one of these type of cards dated July 1928. Later that year they changed to traditional postcard style backs, with the company name down the edge (one I have is dated 1928). The words “further reproductions may be had…” appeared a little later on the backs (the oldest dated example I have seen is from 1932) and finally by 1937 they moved this text block down the centre of the back and added the words ‘Copyright Photograph’.
After scratched on reference numbers there was a period when the cards had an angled black strip across the corner with the number written onto it (as seen in the café shot above). North Bay Snaps then progressed to cameras with a mechanical numbering system, as seen in the middle portrait (similar to those used by Sunbeam in Margate.)
Their competitors over in the South Bay, Sun-Ray, also moved later to a mechanical system, in their case in the bottom right corner at 45 degrees. The 1950s Benson images from Scarborough are smaller prints, around half postcard size, with the company name rubber stamped on the back.
I have one further walking picture image clearly from a strip of three on which the owner has written ‘Scarborough 1946’ in pencil, which points to one unknown operator working in the town for a time with an adapted movie camera.
As always, I’d welcome any more information about North Bay Snaps or any of the other firms mentioned, and examples of the walkies. Visit the sending pictures page to see how to do this. Photo below courtesy Brian Partridge.