Our photo dating expert, Jayne Shrimpton, analyses your family photos.
Ray Hunt sent us his photo and asked:
‘We are trying to find a fairly accurate date for the attached photo and would like to discover who these people are and the location. It may be around the London area of Barnet, Hammersmith or Hendon or even Norfolk or the Midlands. Any help would be very much appreciated.’
‘It’s always interesting to see family snapshots set in real locations, as these portray how our ancestors lived and reveal the places that they frequented. The setting here is identifiable as the market town of Banbury in Oxfordshire. The distinctive Victorian gothic monument in the background is Banbury Cross, built in 1859 to commemorate the marriage of Victoria, Princess Royal (eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert) to Prince Frederick of Prussia, although Banbury was already famous for its earlier crosses, destroyed by Puritans in 1600. One of these was probably the cross mentioned in the nursery rhyme ‘Ride A Cock Horse to Banbury Cross’.
A picturesque, historic town, Banbury has always attracted tourists and, located 64 miles north-west of London, would have been within easy reach of your forebears living in the London districts that you mentioned, or, alternatively, in parts of the Midlands. Present-day photographic views of this spot, found online, show that the trees to the left have grown much taller and that modern bollards and crossings may have replaced the prominent Belisha beacon – street furniture introduced in the 1930s and once a more familiar sight on our roads.
The clothing worn by this family demonstrates that we are looking at an image from around the middle of last century. The lady wears a smart suit that reflects the trim, tailored fashions of the 1940s, her waved, neck-length hair also typical of the decade. Her jacket with wide padded shoulders and skirt featuring a front pleat resembles a utility outfit, as worn during WWII and for some time afterwards by many women, since clothes rationing remained in force until 1949. Her sling-back shoes with peep toes are a style seen mainly after the war and exemplify the more fashionable types of footwear that women began to enjoy wearing again after being restricted largely to more functional styles during the war.
This photograph could possibly date from the war years; however, the presence of a man who looks to be of military age also supports the likelihood of a post-war date. He wears a loose, rather shapeless lounge suit that is characteristic of the 1940s and could perhaps be the de-mob suit with which he would have been issued upon leaving the forces. A shirt and tie were still commonly worn by men at this date, even for leisure occasions, although his inner garment may be a more casual knitted sweater or sleeveless waistcoat. The appearance of the couple’s daughter also accords with the 1940s, her short, puff-sleeved frock a popular style for young girls.
When children appear in an old photograph, this can help with identification, as their ages and, therefore, approximate birth years are more easily judged than those of adults. This girl looks to be aged about six or thereabouts and, born in the late-1930s or early-1940s, she may well still be living today. Hopefully you may now be able to put names to these family members photographed in Oxfordshire over 60 years ago.’
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