Blog23 May 2012
Our photo expert, Jayne Shrimpton, analyses your family photos.
Evan Franklin sent us his photo and asked:
‘I found this photo among my late father’s photographs. I suspect that it was taken around 1920 in South East England and would like to know where. In December 1918, when my father was 11 and his brother was 9, they were orphaned when their parents died in London from Spanish flu, within 14 days of each other. The boys were placed in Dr Barnado’s home.
They never spoke of the ordeal but at the age of 16 one ended up as a sailor on a ship between Southampton and Cape Town, South Africa and the other was sent to a Canadian farm. The brothers never met up again. We think that the lady in this picture is a Mrs Alice Newman Hall who took the two boys in on weekends and left them £50 each in her will.’
‘Old photographs often connect in a direct way with the experiences of past family members. The story that you have related is very poignant and one that may well resonate with other family historians reading this.
Many of our forebears were affected by the pandemic known as the Spanish flu, which claimed around 200,000 British lives in 1918, while orphaned children were frequently separated from their siblings and ended up leading new lives abroad. It sounds as though Mrs Newman Hall played an important role in the unfortunate young lives of your father and uncle and it would be good to be able to establish whether she could be the lady pictured here and, if possible, where the photograph was taken.
This street scene is either a casual amateur snapshot or an example of a ‘walking picture’, a photograph of passers-by taken by a street photographer who then handed the subjects a ticket and, if they wished, they could visit the photographer’s kiosk later, to purchase their photograph.
The lady in the foreground is the most prominent figure here and, since this photo has survived in your father’s collection, it does seem likely that she was known to him. She looks to be middle-aged or elderly, perhaps aged somewhere between her late 50s and early 70s, so hopefully this fits in with what you know of Mrs Hall’s age at the time that the photograph was taken.
Dating outdoor photographs like this relies on accurately dating visual clues, especially the dress of any people in the scene. The lady we believe to be Mrs Hall is conservatively dressed, although her appearance is hard to pinpoint very precisely, several younger women are more up to date and wear the fashions of the later 1920s or turn of the 1930s – c.1926-30. We see this especially from their short hemlines, first worn at around knee-level in 1926, and from two deep-crowned cloche hats, a style of the later 1920s and very early 1930s. The parked motor cars along the kerb are also from this kind of era.
Judging from your story, your father and his brother were already travelling or living overseas by the time of this photograph, but perhaps Mrs Hall sent it to your father a year or two after his departure as a way of keeping in touch. Positively identifying the urban environment seen here is difficult as there are no firm clues, although you suspect a location in South East England. If a street photographer took this photograph, a seaside town is possible, since many worked in popular holiday resorts, although I have seen examples taken elsewhere.
Do any findmypast.co.uk readers by chance have a similar photograph that may shed some light on this picture, or happen to recognise this wide, tree-lined street flanked by shops?’
If you’d like to send your photo to Jayne Shrimpton, please register or opt to receive newsletters in My Account. Jayne only has time to analyse two photos each month, but if yours wasn’t chosen this time, you could be lucky next month!