Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Vintage Postcard Time No.1

Today we'll take a look at some old postcards from my collection. These have all come from antique stalls at GB Antiques in Lancaster from a recent visit. The Edwardians were great ones for postcards. There was no email and alternatives were expensive. Postcards were a little cheaper than writing a letter and much cheaper than sending a telegram. Telephones had been invented in the 1870s but only started to become popular after World War One when prices came down and in any case telephones that you could carry in your pocket were a long way off yet.

Cameras too were expensive and few and far between as yet. Telephones in the early 1900s were totally rubbish at taking photos. To take photos of people on the not-very-sensitive film of the day, they had to sit still for anything up to two minutes. Many commercial photographers would have special clamps that they would attach to the back of your head so you couldn't move whilst the photo was taken. If you were of a mischievous bent, you could look one way for half the time and then the other way for the other half whilst your head remained steady in the clamp and the photo would look like you had two pupils in each eye! Try doing that with you iPhone! Hah! So with no telephones and very few cameras, people on holiday bought postcards. Sometimes to send to their friends saying things like "Wish you were here" - mostly a lie, but it was cheaper if you only wrote four words... Sometimes, in fact many times, postcards were bought to be kept by the buyer and stuck into an album as a souvenir of the holiday. Which explains why there are so many early postcards with no writing on them. Like this one of Bridlington.

Move up the coast from Bridlington and you come to Scarborough. This card too has not been used. People would hold postcard parties where postcard albums were passed round and used to re-live the excitement of a holiday. Later you would take your own photos and show friends and family your photos on slide film, with a projector and screen in a darkened room. Oh what fun we had... Now we don't have to do that as there are new ways through technology of boring our friends and even people we don't know, via websites and writing er... blogs... er... let's move on!

Postcard manufacturers realised that they could use more than one view on a single card in an attempt to appeal to the natural stinginess of some holiday makers. This card was sent between two sisters who it seems had each gone on holiday but to different places. The postmark is a little indistinct but it was sent on 17 August in either 1913 or 1915. I suspect 1913 really because the other sister had sailed to the Isle of Man and during wartime that might have been a bit more risky! The card was sent care of the recipient's guest house in Douglas.

The message reads: "Dear Sister," (Perhaps the sender was a bit forgetful and couldn't remember her sister's name?) "We arrived safely after a pleasant journey. Are enjoying ourselves immensely. Hope you are doing the same and I hope you had a pleasant voyage. Give my kindest regards to Janey. Your loving sis, Alice xxxxxxxxxxx" (Alice obviously was worried her sister might also be forgetful and either forget she had a sister or didn't realise that Alice was her sister?)

A postcard of Great Yarmouth with hand colouring and a painted cloudscape. Buildings and other details have been picked out in ink. These tricks of the trade are one of the joys of collecting old postcards for me. Night time shots that are just darkened and painted over photos that were taken in broad daylight, with obvious shadows from the sun, the moon in the wrong direction and cars with headlights shining the wrong way are great fun. This card has not been written on or sent through the post, so another collector's item.

A between the wars postcard showing The Pier and Sands, New Brighton. The water is the River Mersey rather than the sea and it's Liverpool that you can see across on the far bank. A collection of masts or cranes and derricks on the left side are on Liverpool Docks. The pier acts as a means of boarding steamers for a trip across the river or up and down the coast.

The card was sent by a child to her aunt in Deepdale, Preston on 12 August 1935. It reads: "Dear Aunty, We landed quite safely and the weather is lovely and we are having a glorious time. We have been in the water all the time and the lodgings are posh. Yours sincerely, Jean." It was quite common for Lancashire folks to say "landed" meaning simply "arrived". I suspect Jean didn't fly from Preston to New Brighton... Also to many people from industrial towns, guest houses did seem posh - some had a toilet on every landing for Pete's sake! At this time many people would still be using a toilet in a little out-house in the back yard.

Another unused card showing the Saxon water mill at Guy's Cliffe in Warwickshire. Postcards were produced at first by small family-owned studios by a single photographer, but then as they became more and more popular some very large firms came into being, employing photographers to take photographs of a region or even around the entire country. Francis Frith is still a very well known and recognisable brand. Tucks, Salmon, John Hinde Studios, Valentine & Sons, and many others sprang up to fulfil the demand.

A multi-view card by Valentines from Ilkley in Yorkshire sent on 10 September 1954 to a friend in Lytham St Annes in Lancashire. Somehow the card managed to get postmarked twice - once in Leeds and once, the day after, in... er... Ilford. Folks in Ilkley were obviously not quite sure where Lancashire was...? The postmark includes a post office advert that reads: "Save time. Buy 2½d stamps in books, 3'9d a book" (3 shillings and ninepence - 18.75 pence).

The message reads: "Ilkley 10/9/1954. Up north again, this time to Ilkley where my friends from Leeds have moved to. The country is wonderful round here isn't it? How are the ballet activities your way? I've been twice to Festival Ballet this summer. Bye now and best wishes from Pam."

To finish with for this article we'll go down to the far south of the country to Dover. On this card, sent in 1918, there are still masted sailing ships in Dover Harbour, though most of the vessels here sport the funnels of steam power. There is at least one paddle steamer with side paddle wheels to be found. The castle makes for a dramatic horizon towards the right of the photograph.

The card could easily be from a returning soldier, writing home to his mother in Glasgow. It was written in pencil in a very neat hand: "Dear Mother, I have arrived safe at Dover alright, so I am getting on champion. I met Mary at the station, so she was telling me that she doesn't like her new job. Well this is only a P.C. but I'll write a long letter on Sunday. I remain your affectionate J.M. Rae Dov(er)"

Monday, 13 June 2016

Musing In Morecambe

Wednesday 1 June 2016. We decide the day is too nice to stay in and drive up to Lancaster first for a look round the antiques warehouse. I come away with a plastic bag full of postcards, mainly from the 1990s but a full bag for a couple of pounds still seems like a bargain!

There are one or two interesting ones amongst them and there was also a few bits of ephemera - newspaper cuttings, bags from foreign postcard shops and an old paper bag from a Ministry of Public Buildings and Works souvenir shop. It carried an advert for a season ticket to ancient monuments for just fifteen shillings (75p) - sounds a bargain to me!

Then we went on to Morecambe where, bless them, there is still free parking to be found on the Promenade. It was a busy old day though - we didn't find our space on the first pass, but spotted it on the other side of the road and had to turn to come back to it.

Morecambe always got the brunt of the variety comedians even during the heyday of seaside resort holidays. It doesn't deserve it really, because here you will find much less of the dilapidation and neglect that is all too horribly visible in other resorts. Morecambe have worked extremely hard over the last decade or two. Whilst many Promenade properties are now shops with no connection to the holiday or tourist trade, they have saved the seafront from degrading to a peeling-paint shabby look.

This bit of land is what is left after the tidy up following the closure of the open air swimming pool. It's perhaps not ideal, but it's far from hideous. A spot of landscaping and the additions of some flower beds and seating in the concrete space in the middle distance would make it a very nice space.

The War Memorial is unusual in that it dates the First World War to 1914-1919. Most memorials date it as 1914-1918. Built in 1921, it commemorates 216 men from Morecambe and Heysham who died in World War One; 180 from World War Two and one more who died during the Korean War.

The Midland Hotel is Morecambe's Art Deco masterpiece. Designed by architect Oliver Hill, it was built in 1933 on the site of a previous hotel, the North Western Hotel of 1848 which had changed its name to The Midland in 1871. It has two three-storey curved wings off a central circular tower which contains the entrance and a spiral staircase.

Two Art Deco sculptures of seahorses sit at the top of the circular tower. These, a round plaster relief of Neptune and Triton on the ceiling of the spiral staircase, a map of the north west coast from Whitehaven to Birkenhead and a bas-relief mural of Odysseus welcomed from the sea by Nausicaa which formed a backdrop to the Reception desk, were all designed by Eric Gill. As a nice aside, he is the one whose name is remembered in the name of the font he designed: Gill Sans.

Birds play a significant role in the decoration of Morecambe's Promenade. You will find many examples of bird sculptures along the Promenade paths, in seafront gardens and in railings and stand alone sculptures. This cormorant is one of many, sitting atop the finials of bollards.

Trains still run to Morecambe, but these days they stop some 400 metres from this station building whose platforms have been demolished and whose ticket hall and waiting rooms now house a pub and restaurant and where today we found sequence dancing offered as a diversion to the seafront attractions. Where the platforms used to be is a new market hall and a cinema.

Brucciani's famous ice cream parlour opened its doors in 1939 and four generations of the family have managed it since then. It is another example of Art Deco - all geometric wooden panels, formica tables which evoke memories of the Forties and Fifties and with a traditional menu including knickerbocker glory - the monster ice cream dish of the connoisseur (and large appetite...)

We had a lovely lunch here just off the seafront at The Grove cafe bar and restaurant. The food was good as was the service and I imagine that we shall enter their door again at some time in the future.

Having fed the inner man, my appetite was for having a good rummage and just north of the restaurant and back on the seafront we found one of my favourite places in Morecambe. A bookshop where browsers are requested to switch off their mobile phones and where there are many alcoves just like this one, each containing just as many or more books with each alcove holding a different genre. Bliss - call for me in an hour or two...

When I came out, wincing slightly at the brightness of the sunlight and with my purchases clutched lovingly to my chest, we crossed the road and walked back slowly along the seafront towards the car. We paused halfway back to buy ice creams and sat on a bench to enjoy them.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Bank Holiday In Fleetwood

Bank Holiday Monday, 30 May 2016. We had gone south of Blackpool to St Annes on the Sunday so today we head north and come to Fleetwood.

We head for a sunny Fleetwood to walk down from the boating lake to the ferry and back. For a change I decided to fit my telephoto lens to the camera and see what I could find to photograph with it. This is Fleetwood Mount, seen over the putting greens.

There's a model boating pond and a second boating lake where dingy sailing used to be taught. When I worked at the Nautical College in 1985-6 they used to use this lake and had an enclosed lifeboat on davits and a couple of large lifeboats on the water, which are still there. I've not seen them in use for a long time, so am not sure if they are still owned by the college or not.

As we got down onto the seafront near the "Lower" lighthouse, one of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's craft was speeding past Wyre Light out in the bay. The telephoto was at 300mm for this and there's quite a bit of heat haze messing up the image I'm afraid. Heat haze off the north west coast - who'd have thought...?

I've pulled back the zoom a bit on this one but even so, if you make out the tiny figures of fishermen on the first spit of land then you'll get an idea of just how far out Wyre Light is.

Dandelions are taking over the beach! They are intent on taking over my lawn too, come to think of it...

Another full zoom, looking across the broad expanse of the estuary and Pilling Sands to Heysham Power Station. The tide recedes two and a half miles here and comes in faster than you can run. The sandbanks are riddled with gullies that fill up even faster as the tide approaches and these can cut you off from land very quickly. Given that there can be over ten metres (32.5 feet) difference between low tide and high tide you can see why Morecambe Bay is one of the UK's most dangerous places to decide to amble out for a stroll...

Knott End ferry landing across the River Wyre. That sandbank is the reason that even when it is covered and looks to be just river, the ferries do a dog-leg manoeuvre to get to the landing!

Flowers. Don't ask, I don't know. They just looked nice! If I was pressed all I could offer would be: pink flowers...

Between the gardens and buildings of the Marine Park and the site where Fleetwood's pier used to be, a path leads down to follow the seafront which heads off at right angles as the River Wyre channel also bends to head out to sea. From the path we get another glimpse of Fleetwood Mount.

Fleetwood Beach Lighthouse. Designed by Decimus Burton and Captain H. M. Denham in 1839. It is partner to the much taller Pharos Lighthouse, a little farther inland. Known locally as the "upper and lower lights", ships coming into Fleetwood up the River Wyre estuary had to keep the lights directly one above the other to know they were safely in the deep water channel.

The squat building to the left, built on stilts over the beach is - or was, I'm not sure if it is still used - a radar training facility, part of what is now the Nautical Campus of Blackpool & The Fylde College.

Having taken the beach path we are now away from road traffic and in an area much favoured by walkers, holiday makers and cyclists. A row of beach huts adds a bit of colour to the scene.

I never got into the beach hut thing. My parents when I was a child would rather sit on the deck chairs on the beach, sometimes with a wind break if it was really rough and would happily force us to eat sandwiches (such an apt name) that were gritty with sand. Well, it did me no harm. Coffee or tea came from a stall on the Promenade and the only concession to the blowing sand was a saucer placed on top of any open jugs of water or milk. The cups just filled up and we tipped them upside down before pouring into them.

A general view of the beach between the Marine Hall and Rossall Point - the weirdly-shaped building in the far distance is Rossall Point Observation Tower. Open to the public it provides a viewpoint over Morecambe Bay. It is a facility of the National Coastwatch Institution.

Pleasure flights and pilot training flights from Blackpool Airport often pass over the town. The telephoto lens picks this one out nicely. I did this myself on my 40th birthday. Of course the plane then was more like Biggles would have been used to in World War One...

Finally we complete our round trip and arrive back at the boating lake and our car.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Taking The Genteel Airs Of St Annes, Lancashire

Sunday 29 May 2016. It's Spring Bank Holiday weekend and we decide to have lunch out at the Beach Cafe, St Annes. It's a beautiful day. We park on a side road off the Promenade near to the Pier and walk along to the cafe which is family owned and run.

The Fylde coast does from time to time see a bit of rough weather - as witness what used to be the end of the pier standing forlornly a distance from the current end of the pier... But today the temperatures are up, the ice cream is selling fast - and melting fast - and some jaunty blue umbrella sunshades have sprung up to convince you that this is Hawaii.

St Annes is just a few miles south of Blackpool and was always a little more genteel. A half-way stop between Blackpool and Lytham. Stone designs in the bridge pathways were laid down in 1909. A little hard to see on this photograph admittedly, but a few minutes searching around this spot and you will find stone depictions of anchors and windmills and geometric designs all made out of pebbles set into the cement.

The bridges take you over the waterways and gardens. For the more adventurous there are some stepping stones over the waterway at one point. They too have been there a hundred years or more and I have some ancient cine film of myself as a baby being carried over them by my Grandad!

These gardens are still unspoilt by the change in national pasttimes and tastes from the 20th to the 21st century. The ducks can enjoy their use of the water, largely undisturbed by the shouts or chasing of children.

At the southern end of the water garden is the waterfall, with the path leading through a little grotto behind the fall. Behind the waterfall and the rockeries, topped by that luxuriant shrubbery is the Promenade.

Back to the Pier and turning inland, we come to the centre of St Annes. This looks away from the seafront along St Annes Road West. The traffic lights control the crossing of the main coast route from Blackpool to Lytham, a little further along the coast.

Whilst it is no different from any high street in that it has been affected by changing shopping habits, St Annes has reacted by enhancing the existing flower beds and garden layouts, creating new social spaces which are enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

A sad occurrence locally was the loss of the department store J.R. Taylor. The largest independent department store in the area went into administration in December 2014 and closed its doors for the last time on 17 January 2015 when no buyer could be found. The property is currently available to rent.

Garden Street is another shopping street leading from St Annes Road West, the main street, to the entrance to Ashton Gardens. This municipal park has a bowling green, children's playground and the Pavilion Cafe.