Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Something completely different; Old Scarborough

We went antiquing last Saturday, to the annual Best of the West show in Abbotsford. Laurie picked up some nice pieces of Japanese porcelain, as usual; I bought a cardboard box.

It's just a book-sized box, nothing fancy, but the cover has a photograph glued under a sheet of glass. It's damaged, the glass is scratched  and stained, but I am fascinated by the photo.

Here's the box:

The vendor told us it was Scarborough, in the UK, but Laurie didn't recognize it. We came home and Googled it; I think I found the place. It's changed a bit in the meantime. The photo is probably from around the turn of the 19th century. Before cars, anyhow.

These old photos are amazing. With such limited technology, black and white film (now turned brown and whitish), heavy, awkward tripods and bellows, and exposure times and developing dependent on the skill of the individual photographer, they often produce a sharp, detailed image. In this photo, a 4x6, the average figure is barely 3/8 of an inch high, and yet I can distinguish expressions on some of the faces.

I have had these enlarged before, with good results. Scanning produces the clearest image, but I have no scanner, so I cleaned up the glass as well as I could and photographed the photograph.

It's a crowd scene; probably a special holiday in the summer. People are out in their best finery, walking down the Esplanade. And this is what the well-dressed holidayer was wearing:

Hats! For the women, even the little girls, great mounds of lace and ribbons and decorative geegaws. The men are wearing bowlers, boaters, cloth caps; one man here has a top hat.

Girls wore their hair down; young women pinned it up in an elaborate pile under the hat.

Even the babies wore big bonnets. And girl babies wore layers and layers of clothing, like their mothers. Note the perambulator, pushed by the father. His wife has a smaller hat, with a sharp brim and a pouf in front. My Mom had one very like it in the 1940s.

A couple of solitary young men. The one in front seems to be wearing a uniform hat. Many men and women carry umbrellas, using them as canes.

Detail of the row of houses. Today, the street has been widened to make a parking lot, and the front lawns are cut off at the bottom of the steps. And now the traffic is mostly cars.

Down by the waterside, there is a quay, fenced off from the water, with benches along it. The swimming beach is on the other side of the spit of land ahead; Scarborough Castle occupies the top of the spit.

Time travel, without the dials and gizmos.


  1. That intersection could have used a traffic light...it's just a shoulder-bump waiting to happen.

  2. You're right! And where are the "No Parking" signs?

  3. Sheila P10:49 pm

    Sorry to say but although the photo is definately Scarborough, it wasn't taken on the Esplanade, which is on the South side of the Town. This photo was taken on the North side of Scarborough. The main road in the photo is Queen's Parade and the road running into it on the right is Albert Road. The large building in the distance is the Clifton Hotel. The view is very much the same nowadays, although the gardens have now been turned into parking lots.

  4. Thanks, Sheila! It helps when you actually know the town "on the ground".

  5. Anonymous7:13 am

    Wonderful to see old photo's of my old stomping ground in Scarborough. Like Sheila P says, it's the north bay and half way down on the left is a 'pub' called the 'Cricketers',I believe its closed now. I used to be the singer/guitarist in a band 'Methods'and we played upstairs quite regularily, great place,happy holiday makers,great views and cheap beer ! brilliant! but was the sixties for you,great memories! Derek C


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