Chester in 1952 vs 2019

I returned to Chester last week to attend the BPS occupational psychology conference. As I arrived early, I took the opportunity to re-shoot two of the 1952 photographs of Chester that I’d got wrong last year.

St John's Ruins 1952
St John’s ruins in 1952 …
St John's ruins in January 2019
… and in January 2019
Richard Grosvenor 1952
The statue of Richard Grosvenor in 1952 …
… and in January 2019

It lifted my spirits to see the conference hotel flying the EU flag alongside the Union flag. It’s a shame we collectively did so little of this prior to the 2016 referendum.

The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Chester flying the EU flag alongside the Union flagGiven the redevelopment that’s happening around the hotel at the moment, I can’t see this building being around in 2086 to photograph again.

Dartmouth Harbour in 1955 and 2019

Two views of the harbour at Dartmouth, the first taken in 1955 and the second a couple of days ago. Not very much seems to have changed in the last 64 years. The walls are no longer whitewashed, boats are mainly fibreglass instead of wood, Lloyds Bank is now Jack Wills and The Stores is a branch of Boots.

Dartmouth Harbour 1955
Dartmouth Harbour in the summer of 1955 …
Dartmouth Harbour 2019
… and in January 2019

Elsewhere, The Flavel Arts Centre serves a good coffee and the Dartmouth Museum is small but welcoming. The newly refurbished Platform 1 Station Bar & Restaurant has a great view of the river and is decorated with well-known Winston Churchill quotations. I munched through my scampi and chips under the steely gaze of the former PM, wondering what he’d make of the mess his country is in.

Terminus

One of my Christmas Day highlights (*) was seeing John Schlesinger’s film Terminus for the first time in many years. A 33 minute short produced by British Transport Films, it documents a day at Waterloo Station in 1961. I remember being forced to watch and write about the film on a number of occasions at school. Making comparisons between the hive of bees at the start of the film and the people rushing around the station was an obvious one, even for a bored teenager.

Terminus felt it belonged to a bygone era when I first watched it, although only 16 years would have elapsed since it had been made. The railways of today seem much closer to those of 1977, even if the internet has superseded telephone timetable enquiries. After all, I still sometimes travel to London on a 1970s InterCity 125.

There’s a short clip of the film below featuring a disturbing (but staged) incident of a lost child. The full film is available for free on the BFI Player.

 

(*) Talking Pictures TV showed the film yesterday, but I didn’t watch it until this morning.

Cine film of grasstrack motorcycle racing, Hopwell Hall, 1951

I recently found a couple of Pathescope films shot by my father in the early 1950s. The more interesting one is of grasstrack motorcycle racing in September 1951.

Pathescope is a 9.5mm cine film format with the sprocket hole in the centre. It was introduced in 1922 and was most popular with amateur film-makers in France and the UK. Pathescope Limited was the subject of a workers’ buyout in 1959, but went bankrupt in 1960. In a precursor to the VHS/Betamax wars of the 1980s, an arguably superior format fell to the greater marketing muscle of Kodak and the far wider range of suppliers supporting the 8mm standard. The very late introduction of Pathescope colour film also didn’t help.

When I had the film digitised (+) I thought the location may have been Kirkby Mallory in Leicestershire. In 1951 Kirkby Hall was still standing, but only just (it was demolished in 1952), after wartime use by the military. The British Championships were held there on 2nd September, and this film was processed on the 25th. Grasstrack racing was held at Kirkby Mallory up until 1956. It ended when a tarmac circuit – Mallory Park – was laid for the princely sum of £50,000.

However, a closer examination of the film plus a glance through his 1951 diary instead confirms the location as Hopwell Hall (-), near Ockbrook. The racing took place on Sunday 23rd September. There’s a couple of seconds of my grandfather midway through the film, which was an unexpected bonus.

Grasstrack racing at Hopwell Hall 1951
Grasstrack motorcycle racing at Hopwell Hall, September 23rd 1951. The hall was damaged by fire a few years later and subsequently rebuilt.

(+) By the excellent TVV Productions in Newcastle.

(-) Hopwell Hall was a Special School run by Nottinghamshire County Council (in Derbyshire) from the 1920s up until the 1980s/90s. In the 1950s, motorcycle racing took place in the surrounding parklands. It was converted into a £6m, 10 bedroom house in the late 1990s and has been privately owned since.

Chester in 1952 vs 2018

I spent the last weekend in Chester with friends. On Saturday morning we walked around the city and retook a series of six photographs that my father shot in 1952. Five of the locations were straightforward to find. The sixth location remains somewhat of a mystery (at least to me.) I’m hoping to be back in January for the Division of Occupational Psychology conference, so I shall take another look then.

River Dee, 1952River Dee, 2018

The River Dee from the Old Dee Bridge.

Queen's Park Suspension Bridge 1952 Queen's Park Suspension Bridge 2018

Queen’s Park suspension bridge.

Chester Rows 1952Chester Rows 2018

View from Chester Rows – The Grotto Hotel and Barlow’s in 1952. Tessuti designer clothing and a branch of Sta Travel in 2018.

Richard Grosvenor 1952Richard Grosvenor 2018

The statue of Richard Grosvenor, Second Marquess of Westminster, Grosvenor Park. The 1952 photograph is looking towards the park, but the picture I took on Saturday is 180 90 degrees out. (The original 1952 image was reversed – thanks for spotting it Jon!) It does however have a bonus pigeon.

St John the Baptist's Church 1952St John the Baptist's Church 2018

A view of St John the Baptist’s Church through the ruins.

St John's Ruins 1952St Johns Ruins 2018

The mystery photograph. It’s clearly a view taken in the ruins of St John’s, but I’ve either taken mine from the wrong spot or part of the ruins have been demolished since 1952. I can’t find any record of ruins being demolished (and the site is Grade I listed!) so it’s probably the wrong spot. However, the arch and steps on the left hand side of the 2018 photograph do seem to match those of the 1952 image. If you can help with the identification, please leave me a comment!

Update 4th December 2018: Mystery solved – the 1952 image (like that of the statue) was also reversed. If I retake the photograph from the plinth in the bottom right of the 2018 image, I’m pretty sure that this is still the view today.

St John's Ruins 1952

Transplant +75: Carsington Water

Carsington Water is a pleasant 30 minute drive from home. It’s somewhere I enjoy going to think, especially when it’s quiet. It was very quiet this morning, as well as being cold and rather eerie in the winter sunlight. It’s a good job the 7 has a heater – however inefficient. At least it keeps my legs warm while the top half of me is wrapped in a fleece, scarf, snood, woolly hat, driving gloves and a big coat.

Andrew Frost's wizard sculpture on Stones Island, Carsington Water
Stones Island, Carsington Water

This was probably the last excursion for Gnu this year as the weather for the rest of this week looks poor. He’ll be safely stored away and SORNed by 1st December for a couple of months.

Carsington Water from Stones Island, looking towards the dam. The water is as low as I’ve seen it for many years

I spent some time walking around Stones Island and reflecting on the last year. It’s one I don’t want to repeat in a hurry. Chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant is no fun at all. Worse than the treatment was missing out on too many social occasions – including work. But I hope that I’m now through the worst of it and that any relapse is many years away. Maybe something else will get me first after all!

Andrew Frost’s sinister wizard sculpture on Stones Island, Carsington Water

Having made appreciative noises at the sculpture, my twenty-minute walk became too cold to bear. So I did what any sensible person would do and headed to the Mainsail restaurant. My sausage cob (breakfast is served until 2.30pm – very decadent) and pot of tea were a bargain at £5.25.

I’m cautiously optimistic about 2019 from a personal perspective. Maybe even my head hair will grow back soon. I hope this optimism is better-founded than my Old Timmy’s Almanac predictions were at the start of this year.

Spondon Home Guard

A conversation I had earlier on today reminded me that I have a photograph of the Spondon Home Guard. It was taken during World War II, outside the gatehouse lodge at Locko Park. I don’t have a key to the people in the picture, although my assumption is that there must be at least one Holyoake present. I can see a couple of possible candidates.

If anyone does recognise any of the volunteers, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Spondon Home Guard during WWII
Spondon Home Guard during WWII

Own a piece of bygone Spondon

Since I started publishing my father’s photographs of bygone Spondon, I’ve been delighted by the interest that they’ve attracted. I was recently contacted by Kaff at Cherrytree Picture Framers in Spondon who asked if she could create display prints from four of them.

Yesterday I saw the results of her efforts – and they’re truly stunning.

The blemishes which scarred the original slides and negatives have been skillfully removed. High resolution scans (rather than scaled-down images from this blog) were used, producing great quality prints.

The photographs are currently on display at 3 Moor Street, Spondon. Prints can be purchased in different sizes and frames.

Bygone Spondon at Cherrytree Picture FramersThe best way to appreciate the pictures is to go in person. However, if you’re unable to visit and want to take a closer look, the colour photographs are blemish-free versions of the first two in this post. The black and white photographs are featured here.

The Oulton Park monument

One of the more incongruous sights at a motor racing circuit is at Oulton Park, Cheshire.

I was reminded while watching the British Touring Cars racing on ITV4 this afternoon that I took a photograph of the monument to Captain John Francis Egerton on my last trip there in 2015.

Oulton Park Monument

It was erected by subscription in May 1846 following the Captain’s death from wounds received during the first Anglo-Sikh war in 1845. One of the more elaborate Eleanor Crosses constructed in Victorian times, it was granted a Grade II* listing in 1986.

It is fairly close to the Warwick Straight as it runs out towards Lodge Corner as can be seen by the barriers and hazard signs in the background. Fortunately it’s in a position that is likely to be safe from even the most wayward driver.

British Celanese Motor Club Driving Tests – June 1960

Earlier on today I came across a number of photographs taken on the afternoon of Sunday June 26th 1960 at the British Celanese Motor Club Driving Tests event. Thanks to my late father’s meticulous record keeping I can also provide the context to the event, as well as the photographs.

Driving Tests Entry Form
The entry form for the event.
Instructions for each of the six tests
Instructions for each of the six tests. If anyone would like a copy of the complete booklet containing the descriptions of all of the tests, just let me know!
Test 1 in progress
The first test in progress. The Moon Hotel (now known as The Canal Turn) is in the background.  According to the DVLA’s vehicle enquiry service, the white Austin Healey, 434 HNU, is still taxed. If the current owner would like to contact me, I have a number of other photographs of the car along with records from the BCMC to show that it was competing in their events from soon after first registration in July 1958.
First test in progress
A small but enthusiastic crowd of spectators look on.
First test in progress
Did he touch the back of the garage? It looks like a close-run thing to me.

And finally, the results.

The resultsThe Austin Healey finished fourth. This was one place behind my future Godfather in third, with my future father finishing first.