Blog19 Dec 2012
Our photo dating expert, Jayne Shrimpton, analyses your family photos.
Cindy Faulkner sent us her photo and asked:
‘Here is a photo that has stumped the family for ages. We think it could be from our Faulkner or Jackson line back in Bradford, Yorkshire, England. What is the sports team and the approximate year? Thanks for your assistance.’
‘This is an interesting photograph that, as you say, seems to represent a sports team. I decided to feature this picture as, although I can approximately date it and confirm the general theme, the exact details of what it represents are hard to determine from the visual image alone. This photograph needs to be shared and circulated, in the hope that someone somewhere can shed some more light on the scene. Probably several copies of this photo were produced at the time, for the various girls pictured here and their families, so there should be other versions in existence and perhaps another copy has been passed down with more information attached to it. Or just possibly a viewer may happen to recognise somebody or something in the picture that holds the key to understanding precisely why and exactly when it was taken.
This is a professional photograph and we know from the written details at the foot of the picture that the studio location was Bradford, West Yorkshire. I have been unable to discover anything useful online about the photographer, S. A. Wilkinson, but the geographical location is helpful and I see that you have already narrowed down likely connections to two branches of your family who lived in Bradford. The other clue that should help with identifying one of your ancestors here is the date range of the photograph. This studio interior, displaying a panelled room and small-paned windows, is typical of the 1910s, while various dress clues here also support that decade. In particular, the girls’ hairstyles, which vary from long plaits, through ponytails, to ringlets, mainly secured with huge taffeta bows, are characteristic of the period c.1910-20. So this is your key timeframe when considering family members who may possibly appear in the scene.
As we see, the girls in this photograph are all dressed similarly in what appear to be sporting outfits. Their open-necked blouses could be special sports blouses or part of a school uniform, since many are worn with a tie. Regulation school uniform was becoming firmly established for older pupils by the 1910s, although the distinction between regular uniform and school sportswear could be blurred, the gym slip, for example, crossing over from PT classes to school day wear. Here, the dark skirts worn with black woollen stockings are shorter than the fashionable calf length hemlines of the 1910s, so they would seem to be designated sports skirts. Aged in their ‘teens’ (a term not used in the 1910s), the girls could well be members of a Bradford high school, or possibly they belong to a local sports club or team that had its own official uniform.
The girls display various badges and medals on their ties and blouses, including shield-shaped cloth badges and pendant metal medallions bearing a dark cross and we may assume that some, or all, of these are sports medals. The trophies placed proudly in the centre of the picture seem to confirm their success in winning one or more sporting championships, although, unfortunately, in this case an emblem or symbol of their event, such as a hockey stick, ball or dumb bell, has not been included in the scene.
There are 11 girls here, which could, for example, suggest a hockey team; the game of field hockey becoming very popular at this time. Another typical female event of the era was gymnastics, although perhaps this is less likely. The man in the background, who also wears early-20th century-style sportswear and medals, must be the trainer or coach, while the two men in regular suits could be teachers (if these are school girls) or perhaps a team manager and another club official.
We have a date range and a celebratory sports-related occasion, but without more specific input, I’m afraid it isn’t going to be possible to firmly identify this Bradford team or their sport. If the medals and badges can be recognised, they may well hold the key to this picture, but there is no single source available that provides this kind of information. To investigate further, it might be worth your while contacting local sources such as the West Yorkshire Archive Service in Bradford, who have a sporting section and keep historical records (PDF) relating to local sports associations.
Finally, Cindy, don’t forget to look through your collection of 20th century photographs carefully to see if you can spot any of these people in other family pictures. Also inquire among other relatives with Bradford ancestry. Meanwhile, if any readers have useful information or even possess the same photograph at home, please let us know. The answers to the remaining questions should be out there somewhere!’
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