These two found prints make slightly uneasy viewing, the children seem to be looking right through the photographer to a different dimension. But they did appeal to me in a pile of discarded prints. Most people who snap their children go for something a little more natural looking, especially outdoors. Instead these kids look frozen in time, something you normally associate with indoor studio portraits. I think the two girls in the two photos must be sisters, the light flaring and print edge on both is the same, even the grass, which suggests they were taken not far apart time wise (or maybe it’s the same person?). It’s quite hard to date them but the buttoned up shoes suggests late 1890s or turn of the century (and they are printed on thin photographic paper typical of that era). The girl’s dark dress looks a bit home made under the magnifying glass.
Both prints are around 3″ by 4″, or quarter plate as it was known, and suggest they were contacted from glass negatives of that size.
This family turned up in a handful of walkies I found together, mostly taken in the Lancashire resort of Lytham St. Annes in the 1950s. None of them are named but they have added to dates to the backs, so I know this was taken there in 1956. Daughter’s beret, camel hair coat and smart sandals fit the era exactly, and they all seem to be braced for cold weather. The view is looking back up St. Annes Road, the main shopping street, from the Promenade. In front of them is St. Annes pier, so that’s probably where they are headed. It’s quite hard to get the same perspective today, but a contemporary postcard (below) shows that to be Woolworth’s store behind them on the left. I assume the photographer operated at the pier entrance and sold the prints from a small kiosk there. The small town is just below Blackpool and the pier and buildings have managed to resist nasty modernisation. I do not know the photographer; Spotlight did take walkies in the town in the Thirties but were no longer in business at this time. It is a good print though, quite clear and sharp.
Another of those small photo booth portraits, but mounted on a little pre-printed backing card by the photographers, Horsfield’s Happy Snaps of Redcar. With his shirt collar undone, I would imagine the gent was on holiday and wanted a souvenir. A photo booth would have been the cheapest option, certainly cheaper than a walkie. It would also be the quickest. I cannot find any reference to the shop on the web, but the name does suggest they may also have done beach and street photography, although I have not yet seen a walkie from this seaside town.
And while Redcar as a resort is not one that springs readily to mind these days (though I have been for a look), with a superb beach it did serve the populations of some big North East cities from Victorian times onwards, particularly Middlesborough. One lady on the web recalled her day as a child at Redcar: “On the morning as we left our apartments we went to the beach. I had a donkey ride, then on to the ventriloquist whose show began at 10am, then the Punch and Judy Show (a little further along the beach) started at 10.30am. The Pierrots started at 11am (The Optimists of ’38, The Seafarers, and The Wavelets are all names she recalled). Sometimes before going back to the digs for lunch, we went along to Sunshine Corner. After lunch we either went to the boating lake end, Lock Park or the Stray end to the paddling pool.”
Makes you exhausted just reading it! I’m trying to date the picture but would suspect late Forties.
Although this walkie carries no identifying details, it is a half postcard size print with a miniature postcard style back print. One of the few firms to do this were Walkie Snaps of Blackpool, who sold two identical prints this size to customers. There is dirt on the negative and a scratch down the film too, evidence of hasty processing.
The large building in the distance looked familiar and the Olympia sign just visible confirmed it as Blackpool. The Winter Gardens block survives and has a large exhibition venue inside called The Olympia.
The scene is full of everyday incident, people out shipping, stopping for a chat, and various vintage delivery trucks. It has a pre-War feel about it, so probably late 1930s.
The couple are fascinating, with the gent’s open necked vest at odds with the usual dress standards of the day (an open collar buttoned v-neck top perhaps). But then he probably figured they were off to the beach for a sit and a read of the paper, so what the heck. His solid build and direct look at the camera does suggest you wouldn’t want to argue the toss with him!
The part of Adelaide Street they are on has now gone, replaced by yet another bland shopping mall of some sort (the Houndshill Centre – I looked it up), so where you could once walk straight down to the sea-front from the many guest houses, your way is now blocked by this and service car-parks. A bit of sensible town planning could have opened up a generous parade down to the tower and promenade. You can get an idea of the location by comparing it with the modern day street view above.
I have looked at Remington’s walking picture operation in the site in some detail but this walkie is both a great informal image and it shows their pitch near Torquay’s Princess Pier. Remington were based in Paignton by this time, just a mile or so down the coast. Given the shadows this would have been taken mid-morning, and the postcard print available for the family to buy later that day from the kiosk on the right. Son and heir is wearing what looks like a knitted trouser suit from a pattern and was probably on holiday in the late 1930s.
Butlin’s camp at Clacton was one of the earliest, and opened in the summer of 1938 only to have to close during the War. It reopened in 1946 to the public and I suspect this souvenir postcard was of some of the first visitors.
The camp had it’s own access to the beach (with a ticket so you could be readmitted!). Butlin’s also had their own photographic department, and took souvenir postcard pictures of holidaymakers which could later be bought at the kiosk. There was a reference number stamped on the back.
The woman in the centre is I’m fairly certain the mother of the two younger girls seen on the 1938 walking picture taken in Bridlington posted a few days ago.
There is a Butlin’s Filey souvenir photo on the site.
The Cartes de visite portrait craze started in the late 1850s. It’s not hard to see why people should be fascinated by this early form of portrait photography but by all accounts it peaked about ten years later, with people using them like business cards, swopping and collecting them, then settled down, before disappearing around the turn of the century as people turned to more regular studio portraits. My theory is that it was the first big photo trend, and walking pictures were the next, starting in the early 1920s.
Many families have at least a few in their albums, and I have been making an effort to identify and date those we have. Remarkably my Great Grandparents on my Mother’s side seem to have arranged sittings for all their children at an early age, and all were done at the same studio in Hull, Turner and Drinkwater, in the 1880s (the firm’s purpose built building still survives). I’ve posted them all with some more information on the site, but here’s Thomas around 1884, the eldest. These cards were all very much alike, a thin paper print fixed to a rigid card backing with the firm’s details pre-printed, and usually rounded corners. The firm named their building The Studio Royal having managed to get one of the royal family in there to pose!
There are always hundreds of these Cartes de visite at fairs and antique centres, most of which have been tipped out of albums so we’ll never know who they are.
I do like finding walkies of people I know, and this first one (WP879) came to light only a few weeks ago when I was visiting relatives and remembered to ask. It shows my late Uncle with his two youngest children (the family lived in Hull), and was taken in the East Yorkshire coastal town of Filey around 1957. They’re clearly just heading onto the beach and I like the casual gear my Uncle is wearing, very wide trousers, jumper and open necked shirt.
I cannot quite work out where on the Filey seafront it was taken as there have been a lot of changes, but will have a look next time I’m over that way. But it does really show how the walkie could capture so well a very ordinary moment that would otherwise have been forgotten.
It is also another tiny piece of the walkie story as it’s the first example taken in Filey I have seen. It is a seaside resort but quite peaceful, and perhaps didn’t generate the trade to attract many walking picture operators. It is unmarked and looks like it might have originally been one of a pair judging by the way it is roughly cut at the bottom edge.
The second walkie is another which turned up in my Aunt’s photo albums. It shows my Great Uncle William striding down Marlborough Terrace, and the young girl is my Aunt, who was then attending Bridlington High School for Girls, so it would be around 1937 (the family were living on Cardigan Road in the town). The walkie is also unmarked and would be one of a strip of three originally. The same firm took lots on this stretch of road, and given it is so busy you can see why. Coaches also used to stop off here to drop day trippers.
I have another walkie of them on almost exactly the same spot taken on a different day. As residents of the town they must have come across walkie cameramen before, but seem to be either ignoring him, too busy chatting (or “here’s another ruddy cameraman, pay no attention,” knowing my Uncle). But they still bought the strip. The woman to their immediate right dressed like a nurse or perhaps a maid is certainly looking straight into the lens.
Both walkies have an everyday feel about them which really crosses the years. I can even connect the two walkies, as the young girl in the Bridlington print married the gentleman in the Filey print in 1964… There are some more formal family photographs of the pair on the site.
Having researched the history of Foster Brigham’s studios in Bridlington (particularly his Snaps walking pictures operation) , it is fascinating to discover photographs taken there of my own relatives. This remarkable portrait is so well done, and hard to believe it’s a black and white portrait hand coloured by the studio, the work is so good. It is nicely signed by Brigham in pencil, something most professionals did at the time.
It’s of my Aunt, Gillian Holtby, and was taken in 1929 in Bridlington at Brigham’s studio on The Promenade. As she was born in 1925, it makes her around four years old. I have also found the original black and white photograph (also signed) from which the hand tinted version was done, so you get an idea of the work involved.