Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Twitter for Gentlefolk: A 20th Century social documetary photographer

Image © and courtesy of Hulton Deutsch Collection
The Forgotten Gorbals, by Bill Brandt, 1948

There is so much to be found about and by Bill Brandt on the web that there seems little point flouting my ignorance here. This image, reproduced as a postcard sent to me last week by Alan Burnett in support of the "Twitter for Gentlefolk" movement - a revolution perhaps needs to start out with slightly more modest aims - will, I hope, speak for itself. It is a thoughtful, understated illustration of how effectively Brandt, as Alan describes it, "was able to balance an image to perfection and combine the documentary and artistic requirements of photography," and a much appreciated missive.

I see much of Brandt's influence in Alan's own photographs, many of which you'll find on his Picture Post blog. I look forward each week to the glimpses into Alan's collection, as he scans prints, slides and negatives from his personal archives, and sallies forth into the English town and country in search of new inspiration.

My own contribution to the "movement" - well, my first - is up on Alan's News from Nowhere blog. If you feel the urge to exchange postcards, and further the aims of Alan's movement, please feel free to email me.

My Dad and Princess Margaret

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Bud Payne, March 1951

On the evening of 13th July, 1953 I was standing at the edge of a dance floor with umpteen other likely lads, when a petite and comely young woman walked by. She looked – not glanced – at me, and I at her for a second or two until she was past, and I was slightly embarrassed. She died yesterday. Among other things I was wearing one of the nicest pairs of shoes I’ve ever owned : Crockett & Jones classic Oxford front black, but they were half a size too big for me and therefore stuffed with old newspaper.

Bud Payne, 10 February 2002


Image courtesy of Roman Benedik Hanson
Princess Margaret, 13th July 1953

Princess Margaret wore a 10-tier evening dress of white lace sprinkled with sequins when she attended a young people's ball at Government House, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia. The ball, attended by more than 800 young people from the age of 17 upwards, was given in her honour. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, attended also. At the request of the Princess a number of Scottish reels and square dances were included in the programme.

Canberra Times (ACT), 25 Jul 1953

Princess Dances Reels

Princess Margaret, radiant and animated, led her partners expertly through the steps of Scottish reels at a young people's ball in Government House. The Princess, who had just recovered from a heavy cold, led any hesitant partner in the right direction with a nod of the head. An African police band provided the music.

Barrier Miner (Broken Hill), 16 July 1953

Princess Radiant at Young People's Ball

Image courtesy of Roman Benedik Hanson
The Queen Mother, Governor General and Princess Margaret
13th July 1953

The Princess entered the ballroom accompanied by her mother. She was dressed in a lace-frilled gown, with a diamond tiara, and wore the blue ribbon sash of the Victorian Order.

The West Australian (Perth), 15 July 1953


[1] Head and shoulders portrait of Charles Bernard "Bud" Payne (1928-2006), Unmounted silver gelatin print, 77.5 x 101.0 mm, by unidentified photographer, dated March 1951, Collection of Barbara Ellison.

[2] Payne, C.B. (2002) Letter to Brett Payne, dated 10 February 2002 at Marondera, Zimbabwe, Collection of Brett Payne.

[3] Full length portrait of Princess Margaret (1930-2002) at Government House, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, Press photograph by unidentified photographer, 13 July 1953, Collection of Roman Benedik Hanson & QueensImages.

[4] Newspaper Extracts, Australia Trove, National Library of Australia.

[5] Full length portrait of the Queen Mother, the Governor General and Princess Margaret at Government House, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, Press photograph by unidentified photographer, 13 July 1953, Collection of Roman Benedik Hanson & QueensImages.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Frank Scarratt and his Derbyshire postcards

I'm a devotee of postcards. It's that simple, really. Whether a modern multi-view showing where a friend spent theirs summer holiday, a scene displaying a historically significant building, an "arty" photograph, or a "real photo" posed studio postcard portrait, of the type that feature strongly in my Derbyshire Studios portfolios, I have always enjoyed both sending and receiving them.

It is sad that, over the last decade or so, postcards have been overtaken by the universal ease of text messaging and email. As most of us know, it wasn't long ago that they were the quickest cheap method of letting your family back home know that you were okay and enjoying yourself, or perhaps merely maintaining a "between Christmas cards" correspondence with old friends.

128. Victoria Avenue, Borrowash
Sepia monochrome colour wash postcard, F.W. Scarratt, 1907

Although I have featured scenic postcards previously on Photo-Sleuth, the articles have dealt largely with the subjects of the images, rather than the postcards themselves and the publishers or photographers. In this article, I'd like to discuss a Derby man whose name has become synonymous with postcards of Derbyshire. F.W. Scarrat is the subject of Yesterday's Derby and its Districts, Rod Jewell's excellent book published in 1995 by Breedon Books, featuring a wide variety of examples from his own collection. While he is arguably less well known than W.W. Winter and Richard Keene, the prolific Scarratt's postcard views spanned a period of over three decades.

96. Kedleston Road, Showing St Aiden's Church, Derby
Colourized postcard, F.W. Scarratt, 1906

Although invented in the 1870s, picture postcards only started being produced in any appreciable numbers in the United Kingdom in the late 1890s, after they had been authorised by the Royal Mail in 1894. By the time Frank Scarratt (1876-1964), a Derby stationer, started publishing postcards in early 1906 from his shop at 114 Abbey Street, using scenic photographs that he had taken himself, he was entering a well established market. Initially at least, his scenic views were printed in Germany, which perhaps offered cheaper and/or technologically superior options than were available in England at the time.

London Road, Derby
Colourized postcard, Valentine's Series, Postmarked Oct 1905

The first couple of hundred of his colourized and monochrome colour wash scenes followed fairly closely the styles of those already being produced and sold in large numbers by long stablished firms such as James Valentine of Dundee (example shown above). His townscapes generally included a view of a busy urban or quieter suburban street bordered by shops, houses or other notable buildings, trees, electricty lines and lamp posts.

148. Kedleston Road from Five Lamps, Derby.
Colourised postcard (grey frame), F.W. Scarratt, 1907

A large proportion of postcards from this period include a tram somewhere in the fore, middle or background, often accompanied by several other forms of transport, as well as numerous pedestrians, and Scarratt's are no different. The focus on trams is unsurprising considering the rapid expansion of municipal electric tram systems during the 1890s and early 1900s. Several writers have commented on the fact that Frank also managed to include his bicycle within the frame of a good many of his views.

107. Mill Hill, Derby
Colourized postcard (Brown frame), F.W. Scarratt, 1907

In 1907 and 1908 he produced a variety of views with simple wide brown (wood grain finish), white or gray frames, which again followed the trends set by other publishers such as Valentine, AE Shaw (Blackburn), JG Cox (Nottingham), Boots' Pelham Series, and the Grenville and Clumber Series (by unknown publishers), all of whom marketed a variety of Derbyshire scenes. During those first few years he built up a significant portfolio, with about 100 views published in 1906, 52 in 1907, and 108 in 1908, bringing the total to an impressive 260 by the end of his third year in business.

197. Rolleston Hall, Rolleston-on-Dove
Colourized postcard (Scroll frame), F.W. Scarratt, 1908

Then in 1908 he started experimenting with a series of more ornate frames. The first of these appears to have been an oval-shaped scroll type surrounding the picture, and with a brown, wood-grain background, used in at least six different views.

293. Canal Bridge, Weston-on-Trent
Sepia postcard (Ornate frame), F.W. Scarratt, 1909

While the colourized scenes were quickly phased out, the lavishly decorated frames became elaborate and varied, and soon developed into his signature style.

Image © 2011 Brett PayneDistribution of Scarratt postcard scenes, 1906-1910
Rings show distance from Derby, at 10 km intervals

As the distribution map above shows, he was also venturing some distance from Derby in search of subjects. The majority of his 400 odd views up to the end of 1910 were taken within 20 kilometres of his home town, but he did on occasion travel a little further afield to places of particular interest, such as Quorn (Leicestershire), Alton and Mayfield (Staffordshire) and Polesworth (Warwickshire). It is possible that these were in response to special commissions. The almost complete absence of views from east of the River Erewash, even well within the 20 kilometre radius from Derby, suggests to me that he faced some significant local competition in that direction, perhaps from a Nottingham-based publisher.

213. The Vicarage, Barton-under-Needwood
B/W postcard (Narrow white border), F.W. Scarratt, 1908

Scarratt made a number of visits to the small village of Barton-under-Needwood, not far from Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire, possibly since he was born nearby and still had family living there. The example shown above uses the simple narrow white border style that he employed only intermittently early his career, but which from about 1914 onwards started to dominate his production.

375. Police Courts, Burton-upon-Trent
B/W postcard (Palette style), F.W. Scarratt, 1910

Introduced in 1910 a frame in the form of a painter's palette was perhaps designed to lend a more artistic air to the postcards. It was used in a number of different forms until 1913, so was obviously popular.

260. 3 Views of Derby
B/W postcard (3x-multiview), F.W. Scarratt, 1908

At the same time Scarratt published postcards in a number of multi-view formats. The early example shown above is slightly unusual, the more common types having four or five panels with rectangular and palette-shaped outlines (below).

380. 5 Views of Derby.
Sepia postcard (5x-multiview), F.W. Scarratt, 1910

The year 1911 brought a move from Abbey Street to Normanton Road; around the same time he opened a shop in the Market Hall, Derby, which quickly became the main trading premises.

Image © 2011 Brett PayneDistribution of Scarratt postcard scenes, 1911-1915 (green)

Scarratt's peak production was between 1911 and 1914, when he photographed an average of roughly 140 new scenes each year, so that by the outbreak of the Great War he had almost a thousand in his catalogue. This equates to about a dozen each month, which was no mean feat for a sole operator. The pattern of locations visited during this pre-war period roughly followed that of his first five years, with a few notable additions (Swadlincote, Kegworth, Heanor and Dovedale) and omissions (Belper, Mayfield and Alton).

Image © 2011 Brett Payne
Postcards published by F.W. Scarratt & Co., 1906-1938
Data from Jewell (1995)

However, output in 1915 was cut by almost half, followed by a sharp decline in production during 1916 and 1917, no doubt due to privations of war and the ensuing reduced demand. The graph above shows the variation in numbers of designs published by the firm over its 33 year period of operation, but it should be emphasized that this may not be an accurate relection of the volume of postcards ordered or sold.

1020. Donington Hall and Entanglements.
Sepia postcard (narrow white border), F.W. Scarratt, 1915

During the war, his scenes on occasion show signs of the times, such as barbed wire "entanglements" around Donington Hall, then being used as a prisoner-of-war camp, and the War Cross in Barrow-upon-Soar (1916, not pictured).

1181. War Memorial, Market Place, Derby.
Sepia postcard (narrow white border), F.W. Scarratt, 1925

After the end of the war, Scarratt's postcard publishing ceased almost completely for a few years. Although he did produce a small number of cards in 1920, including a couple depicting War Memorials in Barton-under-Needwood and Burton-upon-Trent, it must have been a very lean period. When he started up again in 1924, he revisited many of his old haunts, but also started to document the changing cityscape, such as in his view of the new bus terminus at Cheapside, and a couple of the recently erected bronze and stone War Memorial in Derby's Market Place (shown above). His lavishly decorated frames and artist's palette surrounds, once a significant point of difference for Scarratt, were sadly no longer fashionable, and they were almost completely abandoned them in favour of the austere narrow white borders which had already become the norm amongst other postcard publishers.

1537. Donington Hall with Deer.
B/W postcard (narrow white border), F.W. Scarratt, 1931

In the late 1920s and 1930s, a steady but much lower level output was maintained, with an average of about 40-50 new views a year. Although still visiting some of the regular locations - such as Donington Hall (shown above) where the entanglements were now replaced with peacefully grazing deer - he concentrated on the larger towns i.e. Derby, Burton-upon-Trent and Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and tended not to travel so far afield as he had done previously. Judging by the fewer numbers of these later issues that are sold on eBay, I suspect that they may have been originally published in smaller batches than earlier issues.

1586. Derby in Flood, May 22nd, 1932 (Wardwick).
Sepia postcard (narrow white border), F.W. Scarratt, 1931

When Derby was inundated by floods on 22nd May 1932 Scarratt was quick to record the effect that it had on the city, and his views of a Trent bus nosing its way down a flooded Wardwick (shown above), and very soggy Sadler Gate are probably among his best known images.

762. Halfpenny Lane, Derby.
Sepia postcard (no border), F.W. Scarratt, 1913

The firm of F.W. Scarratt & Co. ceased publishing postcards in 1938, when Frank sold the stationers business to his son-in-law and retired to his home in Mickleover.

I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to Frank Scarratt's Derby postcards. Please visit the profile/gallery on my Derbyshire Photographers web site, where I have compiled a comprehensive catalogue with some further examples of his work. If you happen to have some Scarratt postcards which are not displayed, and would be interested in sharing them with a wider audience, I would be happy to receive some low to medium-resolution scans for inclusion. (Email)

Friday, 25 March 2011

Sepia Saturday 67: Road Improvements in Church Street, Ashover

My Sepia Saturday offering this week is another image sent to me some time ago by a regular contributer to both Photo-Sleuth and Derbyshire Studios. John Bradley's speciality is stereoscopic images, but he also has a fine collection of other Derbyshire-related photographs, and is most generous with sharing them. I notice that over two years later, I still need to add Joseph James Shipman to my profiles of Derbyshire photographers.

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley
Roadworkers in Church Street, Ashover, c.1900-1910
Mounted albumen print by J.J. Shipman of Ashover
Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

Like Alan Burnett's theme suggestion showing a photograph of a bridge under construction - albeit this one is two or three decades earlier - the composition is full of both detail and activity. I've seen plenty of old photographs of steam traction engines and rollers, mostly stationary and often with groups of people arrayed around and on top of them. This one, while probably not actually rolling, since a young lady is clearly posing dangerously close to the flywheel, is in the process of getting up a head of steam, judging by the smoking billowing from the chimney.

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

I don't know much about steam rollers, but a cursory search of images on the net suggests that this one, with it's rearing horse logo and "Invicta" motto, is an Aveling Porter model R10 (possibly Works No. 2321) from the 1890s or early 1900s. Very similar models shown here suggest that this one came out of the factory some time between 1884 and 1889.

Is the man in the straw boater the works supervisor, I wonder? He certainly looks as if he thinks he's in charge, but perhaps he's merely an interested ratepayer, making sure his local taxes are being well spent.

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

In addition to the steam roller and the covered van being towed behind it, there are quite a number of horse-drawn vehicles - I count at least five, possibly six - including what must be a water cart. I think I can see a pump on the top, and a large diameter hose looped at the side.

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

The sign above the doorway reads, "J. SHEPPARD .... DEALER &c.," the text on the middle line being indecipherable. Joseph Sheppard is shown as a shopkeeper in Ashover in 1891, 1895 and 1899 editions of Kelly's trade directory, and is described as a green grocer in Church Street in the 1901 Census.

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

The cart behind the covered van appears to have a large milk churn on the back.

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

Some writing is visible on side of the cart's tray, but is not easy to decipher. All I can make out for sure is "...WELL ..." The only suitable names listed in Kelly's 1899 trade directory are those of Thomas Fretwell, farmer of Shootersley (which the One-inch Ordnance Survey map shows as Shooterslea Farm, some 4 km to the north-west of Ashover village) and John Fretwell, farmer of Alton (2 km to the north-east).

Image © Ordnance Survey
Ashover and surrounding area, OS One-inch Map, 1947
Image © Ordnance Survey

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

Is this man a Chelsea pensioner, I wonder? It seems like a military style cap, but I'm not familiar enough with the uniforms of the Chelsea Pensioners through the ages to know for sure.

Image © and courtesy of Google Earth
View up Church Street towards All Saints church, Ashover, 2010
© and courtesy of Google Earth

The view up Church Street towards the characteristic 39 metre high spire of All Saints Church hasn't changed a great deal in the century or so since Shipman took the photograph, although the standard red telephone box is new and, although there are plenty of cars, there is little evidence of pedestrian activity in either of these shots!

Image © and courtesy of Google Earth
View down Church Street from All Saints churchyard, Ashover, 2010
© Andrew Hill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

In this modern view looking the other way down Church street, the churchyard gate, the stone gate post surmounted by a large ball, and even the corner of a gravestone, are all pretty much the same as they were in the background of Shipman's view (detail below).

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

Also just visible is part of the early 16th Century arched window at the western end of the south aisle. It's a relief to see that, while much around us - at least in the man-made part of the landscape - is sadly bereft of any reminders of the environment which our forebears knew (I am reminded of this photograph recently posted by Alan Burnett), some places are still very well preserved.

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

It's harder to date men's clothing than women's, and women are not very well represented in this photograph. However, I've enlarged the portions of the image showing the four women that I've been able to find. I believe their white blouses with collars, and in one case a tie, long pleated skirts reaching to within a few inches of the ground, and part of fragment of a wide brimmed, flattish hat (just showing to the right and behind the van), suggest a date of soon after the turn of the century, perhaps between 1900 and 1908.

My index to Derbyshire photographers has a rather inadequate entry for J.J. Shipman of Ashover. Although directory extracts quoted suggest that he was operating in the 1910s and 1920s, this clearly needs some elaboration. The 1899 edition of Kelly's trade directory describes Joseph James Shipman as a chemist, and it appears that this was his primary occupation. Ashover has never been a large village, and the market for photography must have been fairly limited. This may also explain why not many images by Shipman have yet surfaced.

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley
J.J. Shipman and his bees, Ashover, c.1910-1920s
Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

Joseph James Shipman was born at Pentrich in 1853, son of an iron works pattern maker Abraham Shipman (1829-1913) and his wife Harriet Sarah Swindell (c1824-1899). As a teenager Joseph became a pupil teacher, but then went on to train as a chemist and druggist, opening a shop in Clowne by 1881. His parents, in the mean time, had started farming at Far Hill just north of Ashover. By 1891, Joseph was again living with his parents at Far Hill, and was operating a chemist and druggist shop in Ashover village. Kelly's directory for that year describes him as practising the additonal trades of "seedsman & aerated water manufacturer."

Image courtesy of John Bradley
J.J. Shipman's chemist shop, Ashover, c. early 1900s
Image courtesy of John Bradley

It's not clear exactly when he started taking photographs commercially, but Bulmer's directory for 1895 lists him as a "chemist & photographer." His photographic listings continue intermittently until at least the late 1920s. Adamson (1997) merely lists the date range 1912-13, without any source data. He was also secretary to the Ashover House hydropathic establishment for some years, and an enthusiastic beekeeper. He never married, living for most of his life with his unmarried sister Ellen Maria, and died almost two years after her in January 1931, aged 76.


Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1891
Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1895
Bulmer's History of Derbyshire, 1895
Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1899
Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1912
Midland Counties of England Trades' Directory 1926-27
1841-1901 Census Images from
Ashover, a resource for genealogists, by Rob Marriott & Davina Bradley
Ashover, From: Kelly's Directory of the Counties of Derby, Notts, Leicester and Rutland, pub. London (May, 1891) - pp. 30-31, on The Andrews Pages by Ann Andrews
Ashover, All Saints' Parish Church, 1908, on the Andrews Pages by Ann Andrews
GRO Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes from FreeBMD
International Genealogical Index (IGI) from FamilySearch
One-inch Map of England & Wales: Buxton and Matlock (Sheet 111), 1947, Ordnance Survey
Adamson, Keith I.P. (1997) Professional Photographers in Derbyshire 1843 - 1914, Royal Photographic Society, Supplement to The PhotoHistorian, No. 118, September 1997, ISSN 0957-0209.
Salter, Mike (1998) The Old Parish Curches of Derbyshire, Malvern, Worcestershire: Folly Publicatons, ISBN 1 871731 33 X

Donkey Rides at Dovedale

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Barnes family excursion at Dovedale, c. late 1870s [1]

This image was sent to me by fellow photo-sleuth Nigel Aspdin. It is a large format albumen print from his own family collection, mounted on roughly trimmed card (140 x 106.5 mm) and produced, according to the stamp on the reverse, by Bull and Hawkins, Portrait & Landscape Photographers of Ashbourne. The stamp also states helpfully, "Groups taken at Dovedale." Nigel is not sure who this group are, although from the provenance he feels sure that they must be members of his Barnes family.

The group consists of five women, six chidren - aged between one and about eight years - and a man wearing a high-crowned bowler hat, accompanied by two rather well behaved donkeys. Clearly the donkey on the left has an incentive, since it is being fed by one of the fashionably attired ladies. They are seated and standing on the grass at the foot of a scree slope, which I believe must be in close vicinity of the famous Stepping Stones near the foot of Thorpe Cloud [2].

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Reverse of photograph by Bull & Hawkins [1]

Robert Bull operated a photographic studio in Ashbourne from the early to mid-1870s, initially from his general goods and stationery store in Sturston Road, and later from premises adjoining the railway station [3]. I was unaware, until fairly recently, that he worked with Mr. Hawkins, but apart from this example, I have subsequently come across two further examples. I suspect the partnership may have been of fairly brief duration. The latter was probably William John Hawkins (1850-1930), who worked in various towns in Cheshire: (Congleton - 1881-1883, Latchford - 1891, Partington - 1901) [4,5,6,7].

Image courtesy of Google Books
Engraving of Dovedale in the early 19th Century [8]

Dovedale was a popular tourist destination long before its acquisition by the National Trust in the 1930s and 1940s, and the opening of Britain's first National Park there in 1951. A long line of literary figures have waxed lyrical about the attractions of the valley hosting the River Dove, including Samuel Johnson in Rasselas, Isaac Walton and Charles Cotton in The Compleat Angler, Tennyson, Ruskin and Byron. As a result, by the start of the 19th Century Dovedale was already spoken of as "a spot known far and near for its romantic scenery." [9]

In 1830 Thomas Moule wrote:
Frequent excursions are made from Ashbourne, in the summer season, to this justly celebrated valley, where its wildness produces a striking effect ... [10]

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley
The Isaac Walton Hotel, Dovedale, c. 1856-1859
Stereoview by Sedgefield [11]
Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

By mid-Victorian times, the locals had come to appreciate some of the benefits of having a constant flow of visitors:
A couple of fields from the [Izaak Walton] hotel bring us to the stepping stones across the river ... near these, boys with donkeys anxiously entreat you to mount, but turn a deaf ear to their invitations, your own feet will carry you far better through the dale ... [12]

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley
A couple "walking out" at Dovedale, c. 1856-1859
Tinted Stereoview by unidentified photographer [13]
Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

By the late 1850s, photographic enthusiasts were visiting Dovedale too. The well known Derby practitioner Richard Keene made his first visit in 1860 [14], by which time commercial photographers had already taken full advantage of its popularity as a tourist destination. For example, John Latham of Matlock Bath, Helmut Petschler of Manchester, Sedgefield and Samuel Poulton & Co. of London, amongst others, were publishing a wide variety of stereoviews.

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley
The Stepping Stones, Dovedale, c. 1856-1859
Stereoview by Poulton & Co. of London [15]
Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

This view of the Stepping Stones, almost submerged by a partly flooded Dove, by Samuel Poulton shows a deposit of light-coloured scree at the foot of the slope in the middle ground (visible above the stone wall to the immediate left of the low weir). It may well be the same scree slope which featured in Bull & Hawkins' shot of the Barnes family.

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley
Excursion at the Stepping Stones, Dovedale, c. 1860-1865
Detail from stereoview by unidentified photographer [16]
Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

Another stereoview of the popular Stepping Stones area, probably taken in the early 1860s, shows a party having a picnic on the grass by the river, a few yards from where I believe Nigel's photo was taken. A couple of donkeys can be seen in the middle ground on the opposite side of the river, as well as evidence of how they transported all the picnic accoutrements from where the carriage had dropped them. Large picnic baskets are clearly visible next to the picnic party in the foreground, and what appears to be a box on a cart behind the donkeys. A man and his dog are posing on the stepping stones in mid-stream. The slopes of Thorpe Cloud form an impressive backdrop to the full image, most of which is not visible in this detail.

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley
Group at Lion Head Rock, Dovedale, c. 1864-1869
Stereoview by unidentified photographer [17]
Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

A day excursion by a large group from Nottingham was recounted in a newspaper of that town in June 1864, demonstrating how the amenities of the Peak District had been made so much more accessible through the expansion of the Victorian railway network:
The excursionists did not number more than 22 or 23 persons, of whom about one half were ladies ... On arrival at Derby [station] a well appointed break and four horses met us at the station ... Lonely it was not, for gay parties of pedestrians, with here and there a young lady of the number seated on a donkey, passed and re-passed from time to time; and at intervals in the glen we came upon romantic gipsy-looking groups of men and women, who, however, turned out to be very prosaic vendors of ginger-beer and lemonade ... The Narrator ... has an unconquerable aversion to chattering guides and irreverent money-hunters ... [18]

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley
Group at Dove Holes, Dovedale, c. 1870-1875
Stereoview by John Latham of Matlock Bath [19]
Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

Another stereoview, this time by local photographer John Latham, and probably taken in the early 1870s, shows a small group which has ventured further up the dale to Dove Holes. I see no evidence in these photographs of the troublesome natives hawking their wares, but no doubt the photographers were well practised in the art of excluding unwanted distractions from their carefully composed views.

Image © Derby Museum and courtesy of Keene's Derby by Maxwell Craven
Photographers at Dovedale, Albumen print by Richard Keene, 1879,
Derby Museum Ref. DBYMU.T269 [14]

Recommendations from the writer of a guide to the Peak District in 1875 included:
When [at Dovedale] you can obtain a good dinnner at any of the three hotels, and you can also obtain donkeys for the exploration of the dale, the loveliest in Derbyshire. [20]

By the early 1880s bicycles were becoming rather popular. Here an enthusiast describes a lengthy "Tour on Wheels" which included Dovedale, although they did temporarily exchange their metal steeds for equine ones:
Leaving our machines in safe custody, and trolling through several fields, we came to the end of the Dale. On the backs of trusty, high spirited animals we careered along to the Reynard's Cave, at the rate of about three miles an hour. Our donkeys were not good climbers ... [21]

Image © Ordnance Survey
Dovedale, 1947
One-inch Ordnance Survey Map

It is clear that they would have needed to start out early in the morning to avoid the throngs:
The Dale, you know, is a centre of attraction for all the country round, and Saturday always brings a number of visitors. They came in four-horse coaches, in "Derby dillies carrying six insides," in vans, and waggonettes, and traps, all soaked in rain ... You will remember that just above the point where the stepping-stones are, and opposite to where the old woman keeps her donkeys, the left side of the river is fenced off by a strong iron gate, with notice-board warning intruders to go away ... [22]

In August 1886 a large group of photographers met in Derby for the first time as the Photographic Convention of the United Kingdom (PCUK). Included in the programme were visits to Haddon, Chatsworth, Dovedale, and Matlock [23].

The Stepping Stones, Dovedale, 1905-1910
Postcard by Valentine & Sons [24]

In 1904 the PCUK met again in Derby, and paid another visit to Derby, although it is clear that not all participants went on that trip:
By A bland observer.
Tuesday. — Dovedale — The writer didn't go. He knows it. Any one who expects to get there a pictorial picture out of a hundred photographic pictures is a — — knows not what he is let in for. [25]

Dovedale, c.1911, Multiview postcard by unknown publisher [26]

An AA Road Book published in the late 1930s gives the following somewhat aloof description: "For rock, wood, and running water in combination, Dovedale (part N.T.) is unmatched in England." [27] The Penguin Guide of 1939 is somewhat more forthcoming, making an unambiguously negative reference to hawkers depicted in the lower right panel of the multiview postcard shown above:
Upon reaching the Dove between Thorpe and Ilam, follow the footpath upstream to the Stepping Stones. The scenery is very entrancing, although the donkeys and refreshment stalls at this point detract a little from its beauty. [28]

Dovedale, c.1905-1915, Postcard by R. & R. Bull of Ashbourne [29]

A few years prior to the outbreak of the Great War Robert Bull's nephew returned, photographing the coterie of donkeys, ponies and refreshment stalls who guarded the entrance to Dovedale, marked by a gate in the stone wall just upstream from the Stepping Stones.

Everyone has heard of the beauties of Dovedale. Crowds gather on a Bank Holiday from near and far. ... There are cigarette kiosks and ice-cream hawkers; there are guides and postcards and wretched overladen donkeys, grunting up the hill ... [30]

© Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Peak Season: Crowds on the banks of the River Dove [31]
Image © 2009 Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence, Courtesy of

This recurring theme of throngs of visitors spoiling the experience continues to be mentioned by the authors of more modern guides:
Certainly [Dovedale is] renowned for [its] beauty and popularity, but often crowds of people can detract from the finest features. [32]
Fortunately the donkeys, their owners and the ginger beer and lemonade vendors are long gone.


Thanks are due to Nigel Aspdin for once again delving into his family photo collection to provide another fascinating Photo-Sleuth topic. I am indebted to John Bradley who has, as always, most generously responded to my requests for images to illustrate this article. I'm very grateful for his kind permission to reproduce images of the very fine images of stereoviews and albumen prints from his collection.


[1] Photograph of family group on excursion with donkeys, Dovedale, by Bull & Hawkins of Ashbourne, undated, Collection of Nigel Aspdin.

[2] Dovedale, Wikipedia.

[3] Payne, Brett (2005) Robert Bull Senior & Robert Bull Junior, of Ashbourne, Derbyshire Photographers' Profiles.

[4] 1881 Census of Congleton, Cheshire, England, The National Archives Ref. RG11/3534/30/8/47, Courtesy of

[5] Jones, G.A. & G. (1995) Professional Photographers in Cheshire 1849-1940, Bath, England: Royal Photographic Society Historical Group, The PhotoHistorian Supplement, No. 108.

[6] 1891 Census of Thelwall Lane, Latchford, Cheshire, England, The National Archives Ref. RG12/3081/115/1/6, Courtesy of

[7] 1901 Census of Lock Lane, Partington, Cheshire, England, The National Archives Ref. RG13/3327/63/2/16, Courtesy of

[8] Storer, J.S. & Greig, J. (1807) Antiquarian and topographical cabinet, Vol. 1, London: Clarke, Carpenter & Symonds, Google Books.

[9] Evans, John (1805) The Juvenile Tourist, or excursions through various parts of the island of Great Britain, London: James Cundee, p.220, Google Books.

[10] Moule, Thomas (1830) Great Britain illustrated: a series of original views, London: Charles Tilt.

[11] The Isaac Walton Hotel, Dovedale, Stereoview, Undated, but probably taken c.1856-1859, Sedgefield's English Scenery No. 720, Collection of John Bradley.

[12] Anon (1864) Peaks and Dales in Derbyshire, Part I, in "Bentley's miscellany, Volume 55," p.323, London: Chapman & Hall, Google Books.

[13] A couple walking at Dovedale, Tinted stereoview, untitled and undated, but probably taken c.1856-1859, by unidentified photographer, Collection of John Bradley.

[14] Craven, Maxwell (ed.)(1993) Keene's Derby, Derby, England: Breedon Books, 215p.

[15] The Stepping Stones, Dovedale, Stereoview, Undated, but probably taken c.1856-1859, by Poulton & Co. of London, Collection of John Bradley.

[16] The Stepping Stones, Dovedale, Stereoview, Undated, but probably taken c.1860-1865, by unidentified photographer, Collection of John Bradley.

[17] Group at Lion Head Rock, Dovedale, Stereoview, Undated, but probably taken c.1864-1869, by unidentified photographer, Collection of John Bradley.

[18] Anon (1864) Pleasure Excursion to Dovedale, Nottinghamshire Guardian, Issue 962, 24 June 1864, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[19] Group at Dove Holes, Dovedale, Stereoview, Undated, but probably taken c.1870-1875, by John Latham of Matlock Bath, Collection of John Bradley.

[20] Anon (1875) How to see the Derbyshire Peak, Gardener's Magazine, in "The Derby Mercury," Issue 8394, 18 August 1875, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[21] Anon (1882) A Tour of Wheels (by Local Riders), The Newcastle Courant, Issue 10835, 1 September 1882, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[22] Marston, Edward (1884) An amateur angler's days in Dove Dale, or How I spent my three weeks' holiday, London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington,

[23] Bedding, Thomas (1889) History of the Photographic Convention of the UK, British Journal of Photography, on Alfred Seaman and the PCUK, by John Bradley

[24] The Stepping Stones, Dovedale, Colourised Postcard No. 10464 by Valentine & Sons, Undated.

[25] Extract from British Journal of Photography, July 22nd 1904, courtesy of John Bradley

[26] Dovedale, c.1911, Multiview colourised postcard by unknown publisher, postmarked 1911.

[27] Anon (n.d.) The AA Road Book of England and Wales, London: The Automobile Association, p.333, Courtesy of Nigel Aspdin.

[28] Mutton, F.C. (1939) The Penguin Guides: Derbyshire, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, p.116.

[29] Dovedale, c.1905-1915, Sepia postcard by R. & R. Bull of Ashbourne.

[30] Drabble, Phil (1948) Staffordshire, London: R. Hale, Google Books.

[31] Peak Season, Digital photograph by Colin Smith, 2009, Courtesy of

[32] Spencer, Brian & Porter, Lindsey (1972) The Dove and Manifold Valleys, including Dovedale, Moorland, 52p.
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