Thursday, 24 January 2013

Sepia Saturday 161: Anyone for a pork pie?


Sepia Saturday 161 - by Alan Burnett and Kat Mortensen

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.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
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.

Image © and collection of The Francis Frith Collection
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.

Image © and courtesy of Google Earth
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
Kelly's Directories
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.

25 comments:

  1. Great detective work and how rewarding to find answers like this!

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  2. What a wonderful piece of collaboration. I'm so glad you were able to find the location of the drapers' store. I'm intrigued too as to why Paul collects shop fronts. Perhaps because there are often a few clues, such as the family name. Fascinating and entertaining; that pork pie reward is well deserved.

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  3. Excellent detective work.

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  4. It must be so satisfying when you finally get the answers about a photo! That is one of the neat things about the internet, how it brings us together. Even though you have your blog and others may not, they enjoy your work and help you out. I really like it when somebody emails me with information or thanks me for my work too.

    Keep up the great work!

    Kathy M.

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  5. I am so happy all the time and effort you invested paid off. Great detective work!

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  6. Another fantastic "cha-ching!" moment for you. I'm always amazed at the variety of niche interests people develop. Thank goodness for them!

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  7. Did anyone say internet is a nuisance? A hobby such as yours couldn't exist say 20 years ago. It must be so gratifying to find solutions the way you do. We have several sites here where people cooperate to find out where in Holland old pictures (not necessarily postcards) have been taken. There are specialists in architecture, local building habits, fashion, costumes, churches and what have you.
    In any case, we appreciate the way you diminish your backlog!

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  8. As a fan of Melton Mowbray pork pies I'm glad you tracked in down, I have vague recollections of running a training course in the town for Trading Standards or Environmental Health Officersin the 1990s. You can find some unexpected things in Kelly's as I did about my grandfather being a saddler and harness maker in Rutland in the early 1900s.

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  9. This Is One Of The Best Uses Of The Internet.Bringing together millions of scattered jigsaw pieces & making sense of them.Carry on the good work (although make sure that pie is in-date & not a 'Sepian'one!)

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  11. What fun that post was. I've never heard of those Kelly directories. Along with the internet, they probably are very helpful - if you can find them.
    Nancy

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  12. One has to be really dedicated for that type of detective work. It certainly helped that there was a name on the building in both photos.

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  13. Last summer I visited the London Metropolitan Archives and spent a day of research looking for clues on a musician's photograph I have from 1887. I looked at a few of these Kelly's trade books and found them fascinating compendiums of historical detail. But gosh it's slow when you have to go get each book, turn the thousands of pages, and try to read that tiny print. I'll take a Google search bar anytime.

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  14. I enjoy detective stories and with history mixed in, your post was a wonderful read!

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  15. A fascinating account of where old psotcards can lead you.

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  16. The beauty of the internet. Such great detective work. You made me long for a pork pie too.

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  17. I hope you enjoyed your pie! Great piece of sleuthing and lucky that Paul and you found each other. Kelly's directories are also indispensable for genealogy research, but I rarely see them for sale. Now, if only I had a pork pie :-) Jo

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  18. I'm not certain what a pork pie is, but I think I need to know. :-)

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  19. Ah well, I was nearly right - at least Wimbledon and Melton Mowbray are in the same country. Tracking down the backstory of these old photographs is the nearest thing to a kind of visual detective fiction. And there is always a pleasure in discovering "who did it".

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  20. Although pleased with my post to Sepia Saturday this week, yours is making me wish I had gone with an unidentified store front that must be connected to family somewhere around Durham. Enjoyed the follow-up and look forward to more. They will all be new to me!

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  21. Fine work! Adding in a contemporary view of the location is a nice touch!

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  22. You are an amazing detective! I also can imagine that you do get comments and emails from all sorts of interesing folks too, with such great posts that you create! Bravo!

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  23. Lisa B, Boobook, Kathy, Karen - I agree, Paul did an excellent job.

    Little Nell & Wendy - I'm guessing that apart from the challenge of finding the location, shop front photographs always have so many mysterious items to identify, many in the shop windows, but also hanging in the doorways, mounted on the walls, lying in the gutters, etc.

    Peter - I think the generic term for that is crowd-sourcing. Whatever did we do without the internet ... probably spend a lot more time outdoors being healthy.

    Bob & Tony - On a visit to the English Midlands with my brother in 2007, we ended up in Melton Mowbray by accident, a resulting of getting on the wrong train. I made the most of the wait for the next train to get a pork pie from the station cafe. It was, from what I can remember, in-date but sadly it was an inferior specimen, probably made elsewhere.

    Nancy and Mike Brubaker - There are a large number of Kelly's (and other) trade directories available on the University of Leicester's Historical Directories web site. There are also a number of others on Ancestry.

    Postcardy - Yes I agree. Without the Textiles editions of Kelly's directories to refer to, I was lost.

    Hazel & ScotSue - Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    Helen BM, imagespast & whowerethey - There's nothing quite like a decent pork pie for a picnic lunch when out walking.

    Alan - The journey and the destination story again, which can easily get one carried away. Sometimes I lose track where I'm going with a story ...

    Kathy - Your banana story was fascinating, and that Durham shopfront can easily keep for another time, when we will be just as enthralled as we were with the Morales fruiterers.

    anyjazz - Thank you. Google's Streetview is often handy for recent views, but modern redevelopment of cities has often left the central streets pedestrian-only, thus excluding the Google Streetview car.

    Karen S - Thanks. Over the last six years or so I've received a huge amount of feedback, without which I think my interest would have waned rapidly.

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  24. I remember that post and I'm glad you were able to find the answer. Don't you get that feeling of "mission accomplished"?!?
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  25. Thanks for visiting Bruno. Yes, mission absolutely acco0mplished.

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