Thursday, 21 February 2013

Sepia Saturday 165: Sojourn in Swanage


Sepia Saturday 165 by Alan Burnett and Kat Mortensen

In the past I have frequently mined my own family photograph collection for both inspiration and subjects for articles on Photo-Sleuth. Hunting for appropriate images or interesting topics often involves looking at the photographs in greater detail, or perhaps from a different point of view. Occasionally this results in the unearthing of new clues regarding the people in the photo or the events depicted, part of the process that Alan Burnett has referred to as "photographic archaeology."

The Sepia Saturday prompt this week invites us to share "unknowns" from our collections. My contribution is the result of an investigation into a series of three amateur photographs from my family collection from geographical, genealogical and photohistorical perspectives.

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Charles Hallam and Sarah Payne promenading at Blackpool, c.1900-1904
Cabinet card by H. Pawson, Promenade Studio, Blackpool
Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison

My great-great-uncle Charles Hallam Payne (1870-1960) and his wife Sarah Emma Payne nee Parker (1870-1946) retired from running the Payne family grocery in June 1914, when they were in their mid-forties, moving from Normanton to Dale Cottage near Ingleby. Retiring at such a young age was probably facilitated by a substantial inheritance from Hallam's father, and perhaps precipitated by the death of his mother earlier that year.

The lease on Dale Cottage was signed four days before Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, and when war was declared against Germany six weeks later, Hallam and Sarah must have wondered if they'd made a mistake. No doubt the privations and hardships brought on by the Great War impacted on far more than just their tradition of having regular summer holidays at the seaside, such as that captured by Harold Pawson at the Promenade Studio portrait above, taken shortly after the turn of the century.

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Charles Hallam Payne (far right) and friends, Swanage
Postcard print by unidentified photographer, 10 June 1929
Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison

They resumed their outings some time after the war had ended and, according to inscriptions on the backs, these three amateur prints were all taken in the summer of 1929 at Swanage on the southern coast of Dorset, England. This was after one of the most severe winters of the last three decades and a notably dry spring, but in typical English fashion they are dressed for inclement weather, quite a contrast to the German family holidaying in Sorrento which I featured on Photo-Sleuth six weeks ago.

It was also less than a fortnight after the General Election, the first in the United Kingdom in which women under 30 were allowed to vote, and therefore often referred to as the "Flapper Election." Did the young women perched not far from the edge of a cliff in this photograph vote? I like to think so, although perhaps they were a little young.

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Reverse of K Ltd postcard, probably taken with a No. 3A Folding Pocket Kodak or similar, using 122 roll film and processed by Kodak Ltd.

The backs of two of the postcard-sized photographs in this series display a generic "K Ltd" format which Ron Playle lists as in use from 1918 until 1936. Although he doesn't state the name of the firm who printed them, I believe these very commonly used postcards are very likely to have been produced by Kodak Ltd., like the similar "K" design from the late 1930s and early 1940s which was from Kodak, and which I wrote about last week.

This excerpt from an article by Merril Distad provides more background to Kodak's early involvement in the postcard industry:
Kodak’s greatest boost to the postcard craze really began in 1903 with the introduction of the Kodak Folding Pocket Model 3A camera. Produced until 1941, it was a small, folding bellows camera, priced from as low as $12, that yielded postcard-size negatives (3.25 x 5.5 inches / 83 x 139 mm). Kodak distributed its photo print papers, both the “Velox” and (after 1904) the cheaper “Aso” brand, precut to the same size, with the standard postcard grid format printed on the backs. Despite competition from other companies’ photo papers in postcard format, such as Ansco’s “Cyko,” Artura’s “Artura,” Burke & James’ “Rexo,” Defender’s “Argo,” and Kilburn’s “Kruxo,” Kodak papers accounted for 70 percent of such sales prior to 1914, while it sold an annual average of 45,000 Model 3A cameras during the same period.
Many of Derbyshire's commercial photographers used "K Ltd." postcard papers for their own photos in the 1920s. Some firms, such Boots Cash Chemists, which had four branches in Derby and a further 11 throughout Derbyshire, would also have provided a service which developed and printed roll film from cameras such as the No. 3A Folding Pocket Kodak.

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Sarah (2nd from left) & Charles Hallam Payne (far right) et al, Swanage
Postcard print by unidentified photographer, 10 June 1929
Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison

Buoyed by the recent successful identification of the Sorrento coastline, I wondered whether it might be possible to pinpoint the spots where these photographs had been taken, even though I am as unfamiliar with England's southern shoreline as I am with the Italian coast.

Although not the best in terms of clarity, the first shot shows Uncle Hallam with a young man and two young women - one with a hat, one without - posing on what appears to be the edge of a cliff, overlooking a body of water with some rocks just visible at centre left.

The second has the same group, with the addition of Aunt Sarah, standing at the edge of a road bordered by an untrimmed hedge. The chimneyed roof of a cottage is visible at centre right, and a view of the sea at centre left, with a possible "notched" headland in the distance.

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Sarah (2nd from right) & Charles Hallam Payne (far right) et al, Swanage
Amateur paper print by unidentified photographer, June 1929
Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison

The third shot appears to have been taken at a similar location to the first, although Aunt Sarah and Uncle Hallam, his hat now carefully placed on the ground, are now standing with two young men and one young lady. It seems likely that the young woman without a hat who appears to be wearing a man's dark jacket in the first cliff-top shot was the photographer in this third photograph.

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Amateur print (60x88mm) on Velox paper by unidentified photographer
Probably taken with Folding Pocket Kodak or No. 2 Brownie, June 1929
Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison

The quality of this paper print, clearly marked with Kodak's VELOX brand, is somewhat inferior to the other two and it is a smaller format. It measures roughly 2¼" x 3¼", which equates to Kodak's 105 or 120 formats, and therefore probably taken with either a Folding Pocket Kodak or a No. 2 Brownie.

Image © and courtesy of Google Earth
Swanage and Peveril Point
Image © and courtesy of Google Earth

Next ... the location, which I investigated, as usual, using the imagery provided by Google Earth. To the east of Swanage's town centre, at the southern end of a large bay, is a peninsular called Peveril Point, which seemed to me the most obvious place to go looking for cliff tops that tourists might visit.

Image © Al Dunn and courtesy of 360 Cities
View of Broken Shell Limestone Reef, Durlstone Bay from Swanage Coastguard Hut, Peveril Point
Image © Al Dunn and courtesy of 360 Cities

Close to the tip of Peveril Point, not far from the Coastguard hut, and right on the cliff edge, Google Earth shows a small red icon which represents a 360 degrees panoramic view. Double-clicking on the icon takes one into the panorama, and provides the image above, apparently taken from precisely the same spot as the first cliff-edge photograph.

The rocky outcrop known in geological circles as the Broken Shell Limestone Reef is clearly visible, even at high tide, as are the the white shells or pebbles which litter the ground at the cliff top. This forms part of the geological type-section of the Purbeck Group of the Upper Jurassic, visited frequently by geologists and geological students since its first description by Thomas Webster in 1816, and well known for its reptile and early mammal fossils (West, 2012).

Image © Andy Jamieson and courtesy of Geograph.co.uk
Coastguard cottages overlooking Swanage Bay
Image © Andy Jamieson, courtesy of Geograph.co.uk and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Despite the loss of two of the building's chimneys in the intervening eight decades, it is easily identifiable as the Coastguard Cottages which are situated immediately above the RNLI Swanage Lifeboat Station.

Image © Bressons_Puddle and courtesy of Panoramio
The Coastguard Cottages on Peveril Point, Swanage
Image © Bressons_Puddle and courtesy of Panoramio

Image © and courtesy of Google Streetview
Peveril Point Road, Swanage
Image © and courtesy of Google Streetview

Unfortunately Google's StreetView camera didn't quite make it that far along Peveril Point Road, but the cottages and their chimneys are just visible poking out to the left of the small tree in the centre of this view above (click on the image to be taken to StreetView). Very close to the blue gate set into the stone wall in front of the tree is where the group of five were standing on that summer evening.

Image © and courtesy of Google Earth
Swanage and Peveril Point, with the two camera positions marked
Image © and courtesy of Google Earth

I write "evening" because the photographer is facing towards the north-east. The characteristic profile of the cliffs at Ballard Point and Old Harry's Wife, on the other side of Swanage Bay, are just visible - the "notched" headland to which I referred earlier. The shadows are long and pointing towards the east, and since in Dorset the sun sets around 9:20 pm in mid-June, I estimate this was perhaps between 5 and 7 pm.


The Promenade, Swanage, Postcard postmarked 1931

Although other visitors aren't visible in any of these photographs, Swanage was a popular destination between the wars, as evidenced by the number of postcards from that era boasting of its amenities, such as the view of The Promenade above, posted on 1931.

Image © and courtesy of Una Palmer
Mary and Ella Chadwick, 1927
Postcard print by H.A. Aylward of Alton, Hampshire
Image © and courtesy of Una Palmer

Lastly to the identification of Hallam and Sarah's fellow sojourners on Swanage. Hallam and Sarah didn't have any children of their own. So whose kids did they have, then (you might ask, if you're a Spike Milligan devotee)? Well, they were very fond of their nephews and nieces, grand-nephews and grand-nieces, including my grandfather and father.

One of the two young women was, I think, Mary (born in 1912, shown above left), a daughter of Hallam's sister Lucy Mary (aka "Maggie") Chadwick (1876-1953), probably the one wearing the sensible hat. Maggie's younger daughter Ella (aka "Bay" and born in 1916, above right) was only twelve years old at that time, so I think the other young woman - the one I suggest may have wielded a camera - is probably a friend. The Chadwicks were living at Headley Down in Hampshire at this time, which would have been two or three hours' drive from Swanage in Hallam's Citro├źn purchased in July 1921 (either a Type A, the first motor car mass-produced in Europe, or a Type B).

Image © and courtesy of Una Palmer
Harry and Clarence Benfield Payne, c.1919-1921
Postcard print by unidentified photographer
Image © and courtesy of Una Palmer

As for the two young men, I feel sure they are the sons of Hallam's younger brother Fred Payne (1879-1946) and drove down with them from Derby. Henry (aka Harry and born in 1906) and Clarence Benfield (born 1907) both lived in Derby, where their parents had been running the grocer's shop/offlicence in St James' Road, Normanton ever since Hallam and Sarah's retirement. Their sister Christine was captured walking with her uncle and aunt twice by street photographers in Bournemouth four years later.

References

Gustavson, Todd (2009) Camera, A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital, New York: Sterling, 360 pp.

Distad, Merrill (nd) The postcard – a brief history, on Peel's Prairie Provinces, from University of Alberta Libraries.

Milligan, Spike (1961) Word Power, on Milligan Preserved, LP publ. EMI (NTS 114), courtesy of YouTube.

West, Ian M. (2012) Durlston Bay - Peveril Point, Durlston Formation, including Upper Purbeck Group: Geology of the Wessex Coast (Jurassic Coast, UNESCO World Heritage Site), Internet geological field guide, by Ian West, Romsey and School of Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, Southampton University.

Sunrise and Sunset in Bournemouth

Historical Weather Events

Excerpt from Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire 1931, courtesy of John Owen Smith

The AA Road Book of England and Wales, publ. c.1936 London: The Automobile Association, by kind courtesy of Nigel Aspdin,

28 comments:

  1. I feel as if I've been vacationing in Swanage along with your relatives and friends. It's amazing how much information you've been able to get just by analyzing those photos.
    Nancy

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  2. A fascinating collection of photographs and stories to go with them.

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  3. Thanks for the stroll around Swanage. Mary Chadwick's braids remind me of Rapunzel's, my fave fairytale princess. I'm always curious about those inscriptions at the back of old photographs (Mama used to get annoyed with me because I would scrape off the photos from the album; they were glued to cardboard paper then)

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  4. Astonishing detective work. I've resolved to look much more closely at photos in our family's albums - you've set a very high benchmark.
    PS loved the studio photo of the two girls

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  5. Bravo! You Have Let Us Fly Over Swanage!
    I Love Not Only How You Interrelate Each Photo ,But Use Them As A Springboard .A Fantastic Jigsaw Complete!

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  6. Excellent work. I enjoyed reading your story, but my favorite pictures are the postcard and the last two showing the children.

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  7. Amazing detection; I feel as though I have been to Swanage now.

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  8. What a lovely collection - so well-researched! Thank you!

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  9. This post has given me 2 good ideas: (1) think about the specific historic events taking place during my ancestors' lives, not just general time period, and (2) think about grouping childless couples with those much-loved nieces and nephews

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  10. A fantastic job as always. Such wonderful use of Google Earth and Google Street Views. Fascinating information about the Kodak post card papers. I'm always amazed at how much you glean from a single image.

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  11. Such great detective work; there is a reason you are the photo sleuth!

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  12. You've set the benchmark high again!! I love that photo of the two girls...it's fantastic.

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  13. I found this very interesting. I have a collection of old Kodak camera's, with many coming from family members. I was wondering where you obtained the information as to the film matched to camera?

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  14. I enjoyed your post very much. They were standing right close to that cliff, weren't they? The then and now contrast, and the history of Kodak and postcard paper is very interesting too.

    Thanks for all of your research to pull this all together.

    Kathy M.

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  15. Very interesting and what a lot of work. I love matching up locations from old photos to their current views.. sometimes it can be disappointing but in the case of Swanage it looks much the same now.

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  16. And I thought I had done well to find initials on a ribbon! I learn so much on Saturday! The postcard my wedding cake photo was printed on matches your Kodack Ltd. thanks for the additional information. I wonder if someone owned a camera like the one you mentioned. They were a family of coal miners and hairdressers from what I have pieced together.

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  17. Another wonderful piece of detective work Brett and this time you were back very near my old neck of the woods. When we lived in Salisbury, Swanage was one of our very favourite places to visit and Durlstone Head one of our favourite places to walk. I too loved the children's pictures and agree about that beautiful 'braid' or plait as we would say; one could almost feel the weight and texture. I agree with Wendy too picking up on the world event idea and asssining families to childless couples - worth mooting on our Facebook page?

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  18. An inspiring exercise in perseverance and careful logic, Brett. I suppose you must have read about the photo analysis that proved Robert Peary actually achieved his goal of the North Pole. Your detective work reminds me of that level of questioning. I'm only surprised you didn't get around to identifying the contents of their pockets too.

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  19. And yet again I find myself "Evernoting" your post so that I can return to it again and again. So much information and research packed into one post. Fascinating.

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  20. Funnily enough I used to live very near Alton in Hampshire. a lovely part of the world. i miss it.

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  21. What a great post, very informative. I can spend hours trying to figure out where a photo was taken. The clues pull you in to the findings! I also hate it when Google stops, and you want to view just a bit more. All the pictures are lovely, but the post card and their walk along the water must have been breath-taking!

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  22. Fascinating piece of research, lots of things to think about in your analysis. I remember finishing a coastal walk at Swanage a long time ago, I must have passed those places.

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  23. Taking the unknown and putting them in context. Very interesting and well done!

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  24. Nancy & Bob Scotney - I feel as if I know it too, although I've never been near the place.

    ScotSue - There's always a story to with a photo, it's just a question of ferreting it out.

    Hazel & Little Nell - I believe that it was the original "flapper" hair style. Yes, the inscriptions are so important.

    Boobook, Postcardy & Alex - Thank you for the kind comments. The studio photo of the two girls is a little unusual in that it was taken from a very low vantage point.

    tony - Thank you, although I have to defer to Google Earth as the trick to it all. I can't recommend it enough to researchers who live far from where their ancestors holidayed.

    Kathy Hart - Thanks.

    Wendy - (1) It's hard to find events which you know must have been in context, but some things are fairly obvious. (2) Another tricky practice, as you can't be sure whether they were family or just friends.

    Helen B M & Kathy M - I learnt a lot about postcard photo stock during the course of researching this article, so am glad it was of some use to you as well. The reach of Eastman Kodak appears to have been pretty near universal.

    whowerethey - Kind words indeed, thank you.

    Sharon - The Gustavson book listed in the references is an excellent source for that kind of information, if you know whwre to look, and it's not expensive (for a large format, hardcover volume). I see copies on abebooks.com for just over $20 including postage in the US. There are also several web sites with thjis sort of information, but it requires a bit of time to interpret it all.

    Lovely - Yes I was surprised to find it so little changed.

    Kathy Morales - You did do well!

    Mike Brubaker - I did read something about it a while ago, but I must refresh my memory. Thanks for the compliment. As for the contents of their pockets, I know that too, but I must show some discretion. ;-)

    Alan - I had a look at Evernote, it's a handy tool, but I hesitate in case I get too distracted.

    Mike B - Thank you.

    Sheila - I have never visited that part of England, but I'm happy to take your - and Uncle Hallam's - word for it.

    Karen - Well I will have to admit this took hours of deduction for me too. Modern photos do indeed give a great feel for the place, but historical postcards, particularly those with people in them, provide so much more.

    Joy - The views must have been breathtaking from those clifftops.

    T+L - Thank you.

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  25. You've certainly taken an in-depth look here and it was informative. But all this only makes regret tossing much when closing my parents' home a few years back. There was much to go through in only a little time, and pictures were the last thing on my mind back then; but hearing about velox and such, I remember seeing some of those. Maybe I had a gold mine there, but ignorance was my flaw. I'll have to take another look now at what I've actually kept, in light of this new info. It might actually trigger some nostalgia, if such thing exists in me...
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  26. Bruno - Don't be too critical of yourself. I think we've all regretted similar decisions in the past, but the important thing is to make the most of what you do have, not dwell on what you've lost ... sorry to get all philosophical ;-)

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  27. It's 1:44 a.m. here, so being all philosophical seems appropriate...
    ;)~
    HUGZ

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