From one of the three Blackpool piers (my money is on the South Pier), another walkie from Blackpool company Walkie Snaps. This is a pre-War example, identified by the film sprockets showing on the right hand side, their layout at the time. The print is 3″ by 4″ approx and would have been a strip of three. The two girls are enjoying an early afternoon stroll judging from the shadows, other holiday-makers are taking a post-lunch rest in the shelter on the left!
There is some history about Walkie Snaps on the site (although for such a prolific walkie firm not much is yet known) and more examples of their photos in the book Go Home On A Postcard.
This walking picture is a long way technically from being a great photograph but it captures a tiny moment in time so well; two young women with a new baby out walking with their pram on a blustery day, you would think it was just taken by a friend – except it has the giveaway print reference number on the back. One of the women has written their home address on the back, 3 Howgill Cottages, Low Road. This is a rural road in Brigham outside Workington in Cumbria, but I cannot locate the house. Not do we know for sure where it was taken, though one of the North West resorts seems likely, perhaps Morecambe (could that be the Midland Hotel – 1933 – going up in the distance?).
Despite the poor print, what seems to be double exposure, chemical marks and the lack of detail (it’s only 2″ by 3″ but may have been one of a pair), they clearly enjoyed having it taken and bought the print as a souvenir of the day.
Whilst my main interest is in the images, walking picture research on this site is providing information for family tree researchers, and we do get quite a few requests for help in identifying unknown walkies which we can sometimes solve. This walking picture is a case in point, sent to me by Annie Goldsen. She knew it showed her mother Mary, the young girl in the centre (aged 7), as well as Mary’s parents (her Mum in the sun visor hat) and her Grandmother, but was keen to know where they were holidaying. It was taken around 1935, and they were clearly off to the beach for a spot of cricket.
I like a challenge; at first I thought it might be Skegness as the white block building was quite like some buildings there, but I drew a blank. In the end it needed a potter through my archives from A – Z, and a match finally turned up in Worthing.
The postcard view below shows the exact spot the family were when the photographer pressed the shutter. The building in the background is amazingly still there, a sort of shelter, changing room and shop combined. Even the buses in the view match.
The walkie would have been one of a strip of three, the reference number is hand-written sideways down the frame edge.
It’s a lovely image, they all seem really happy and having seen him in advance smile for the photographer.
There are quite a few more Worthing walkies on the site if you use the search button.
This walkie would have been hard to identify but for the fact that someone had scribbled ‘Westcliffe’ in the corner, which helped me identify it. Westcliffe is a coastal suburb of Southend On Sea, a town which we know had walking picture firms operating. I have identified a couple more, but neither have the firms named, nor does this new card. Given walkie photographers usually frequented the most popular spots, I tried the main shopping street and it turns out to be Hamlet Court Road, which leads up from the station. The brick tower with white stone banding in the distance is very hard to miss.
It seems to have been posted along with a couple more walkies inside an envelope to Alice’s friend Ada, and Alice writes in neat script on the back that “These were Sunfilms, taken walking along. Did not know they were being done.” Alice goes on the explain that her husband’s umbrella is not split, but is just a fault in the photo! She is right, it is a dust speck on the negative, and it does look like a tear, but I’m not sure why she would be so worried about it.
There is no date on the card but we know it must be pre-1935 as the locally famous China and Glassware shop Havens (established in 1901) built their new store in the block on the right, and it opened in 1935. Fans of Thirties shop fronts and independent traders will love the fact that it survives and thrives (see photo below) and means I must try and have a look some time. The rest of the street remarkably remains much as it was.
If the walkie is by Sunfilms, then it adds another location for this largely undocumented walking picture firm, which I have featured on this site before.
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.
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!).
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?
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.
Thanks to Ron Cosens
This 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.
Since I first posted this I have animated the frames to give us an idea of the encounter with the cameraman over ninety years ago. You can see this posted on the site.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Empire Films took walkies in Clacton On Sea during the Thirties, and we have added a short history of the firm to our site.