Friday, 30 April 2021

Identified - photographs from long ago

This has long been one of my favourite black and white photographs; I took it in the early 1980s, but could not place exactly where it was - somewhere in the East Midlands, most probably Nottinghamshire. A colliery village; the backs of two rows of terraced houses taken from a railway embankment. In the distance, the village school is lit up; in the middle, a girl stands to attention, waving at the camera.

I know it was taken in December, but I can't remember whether it was 1983 or 1984. But I'm more interested in knowing where it was taken. I uploaded it to my Twitter feed, and six days later, after it had done the rounds of the social media - local history groups from Nottinghamshire - I had the answer, thanks to Ray Blockley and Lang Rabbie, corroborated by people who'd lived there.

It's Warsop Vale - and here it is, on a 25-inch to the mile Ordnance Survey map from 1918, side by side with a contemporary satellite photograph. The red X marks where I was standing, the arrow pointing in the direction of the lens. All the houses and the school have been demolished; new houses now line Hewett St and King St. More has changed in the 37 years since the photo was taken than in the 66 years between this map being drawn up and 1983. Incidentally, this map is on the National Library of Scotland's website, which holds the repository for all UK Ordnance Survey maps.

Below: here's a photograph that I can pinpoint the 'where and when' with great accuracy. Taken on the morning of 13 December 1984, it's a lovely snapshot of a recently bygone era - a monocled gents reading the Times on the way to the office - and a Sloane Ranger, too. I can only surmise that the picture was taken east of Holland Park or Notting Hill Gate, where such folk live (too posh for Shepherd's Bush, the first station underground on the Central Line, my daily commute at the time from Perivale to Tottenham Court Road. How did I get the date? I googled 'Thatcher favours some ads on the BBC' - the headline top right on the newspaper. This is a No Smoking carriage; smoking was banned across the whole of London Transport five days after the King's Cross fire on 18 November 1987 that killed 31 people. Shortly after I gave up the Tube and started commuting by bicycle (in summer) or bicycle and mainline train (Ealing Broadway to Paddington) in the winter.

Here's an older one - taken by my father Bohdan Dembinski when we were living in South Wales, when he was engaged on the design of the foundations of the Llanwern Steel Works. We lived a short drive away in a village called Malpas, north of Newport. My father had the use of a company Land Rover; this photo was taken on Pillmawr Road, between Malpas and Llanwern. Below: the view looking down towards the valley of the river Usk. Note the white dovecote in the middle distance...

Here's the same road today, courtesy of Google Maps Street View. A much wider-angle lens than the 43mm Finettar lens on my father's Finetta IVD camera, but the dovecot is clearly there. Out of shot, to the left of both photos, one can look across to the town of Newport and its famous transporter bridge, a view that stayed in my memory very clearly.

Another old photograph taken by my father - this is Catte St, Oxford, below, and the 'Bridge of Sighs', linking two buildings of Hertford College. Taken no earlier than the summer of 1954. Before my time.

I posted this photo on Twitter two weeks ago; it was retweeted by Hertford College along with a contemporary black-and-white photo of the same scene. Main difference (apart from the cars) - double yellow lines and cleaner stonework - the soot has been sandblasted off in the intervening decades.

Finally, I marked the death earlier this month of Shirley Williams, former Labour Home Secretary and before that education minister. I took the photo below at the Hyde Park rally supporting Poland's Solidarity movement the week after Martial Law was imposed in December 1981.

Hated by Labour's left for breaking away from the party as one of the so-called 'Gang of Four' to form the Social Democratic Party (which later merged with the Liberals to form today's LibDems), she was a friend of Poland and a staunch European.

This time last year:

This time two years ago:
April's end, summer's beginning

This time three years ago:
Best April ever?

This time four years ago:
The search for the Gold Train: Day Two

This time five years ago:
Semi-automatic (short story)

This time nine years ago:
So good to be back in Warsaw

This time ten years ago:
At the President's

This time 12 years ago:
Summer's here, and the time is right...

This time 14 years ago:
Why I'm staying in Warsaw

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