Apart from the very welcome comments on individual posts here on Photo-Sleuth, I receive a good deal of correspondence from readers all over the world, sending scans of their photographs, giving their thoughts concerning subjects that I've written about, identifying people or places, or merely sharing their enthusiasm for photohistory. Over the last year or so, due to work commitments, I've not done much in the way of follow up articles, so hope to remedy the situation over the next few weeks. I will make the most of Alan's shopfront photo prompt over at Sepia Saturday this week to follow up on some feedback received relating to an image that I published here in 2011.
Shopfront of W. Barnes & Co., general drapers, undated
Unmounted paper print (149.5 x 109.5 mm) by unidentified photographer
Image © and collection of Brett Payne
In August 2011 I posted this image of a paper print depicting W. Barnes & Co.'s draper's shopfront as my contribution to Sepia Saturday 89. I estimated that it had been taken around the time of the Great War, probably at the onset of winter. Fellow Sepians had a good bash at trying to identify the town, with Alan suggesting perhaps he remembered it from his "time spent living in Wimbledon/Merton 40 years ago." My friend and fellow photo-sleuth Nigel Aspdin suspected it was from somewhere in the English Midlands, but we were unable to pin down a location.
Market Place, Melton Mowbray, c.1950
Image © and collection of The Francis Frith Collection
Then in May last year Paul Finch left a comment and emailed me to say that he had successfully pinpointed the location as the Market Place, Melton Mowbray, (dare I say the home of the delicious pork pie?) as shown in this c.1950 Frith's postcard scene. This excellent piece of sleuthing was not a simple or easy exercise, as I discovered for myself when I tried to find a contemporary image of Melton Mowbray's Market Place showing the building in question.
Market Place, Melton Mowbray, 2012
Image © and courtesy of Google Earth's Streetview
The best that Google Earth's Streetview can do is this view from Cheapside near the intersection with Church Street, with the building in question mostly obscured by a tree. At the very least this building, now occupied by Boots Pharmacy, has been significantly modified since 1950, but I suspect it has been completely replaced.
Image © and courtesy of Durham University
The demolition of a building that features in an old photograph of course makes it the photohistorical detective work harder, but the dedicated enthusiasts will usually find a way. I asked Paul how he had deduced the location of the Barnes & Co. shopfront:
For about 30 odd years I've been accumulating UK shopfronts mostly on postcards. I try and buy unlocated cards as I enjoy tracking down their locations ... over this period I've hunted down editions of Kelly's Trade Directories. They are very scarce especially the dates I really need. I guess I acquire about 2/3 a year if I'm lucky. The Grocery trade volume still eludes me. You'd think with the amount of grocers/provision merchants around from 1900-WWII there would be plenty of such books but I think there's less than a dozen in the UK ... I have bought only two editions of the Textiles editions: 1906 and 1920. It took a few minutes to look up Barnes in the drapery sections and they appeared in both years. After a quick search on the Kelly's website it looks as though it was a fairly long running family business.It sounds simple, but one should never underestimate the amount of time and patience involved in hunting down those trade directories. I'm grateful that Paul took the time to help with this quest.
Based on the photo prompt, I suspect there will be many more shopfront contributions to Sepia Saturday this week, some of which may need identification. Pay them a visit and see if you can assist - yours may be the clue which solves the case. As for me, all this has made me hungry - I'm off to find a pork pie.