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

Derby in 1950 – according to the AA Road Book

This map and description of Derby in 1950 is taken from the AA’s Road Book of England and Wales. Much remains familiar. The Cathedral, Bridge Chapel, Art Gallery, Library and Museum (still boasting a Bonnie Prince Charlie room) are open for visitors. County cricket continues at the Race Course Ground. Royal Crown Derby will definitely welcome you, but there’s no need to apply by post in advance. Engineering is still a core activity, even though the Brexit the city voted for may put it in jeopardy.

Map of Derby UK, 1950.

But much has changed. County Hall relocated to Matlock in the mid 1950s. Derby became a city in 1977. St Alkmunds was demolished to make way for the Inner Ring Road in 1967 and rebuilt a few hundred yards away as a striking example of modern architecture. The railway stations at Friar Gate and near Chester Green are long closed. The A52 dual carriageway, the 1968 absorption of Spondon into Derby’s boundary and the creation of Oakwood have moved the city’s centre of gravity North-Eastwards. The locomotive works are now the site of the Pride Park industrial area, Wyvern retail park as well as being the home of Derby County.

Exeter Cathedral: two photographs taken 65 years apart

Yesterday morning I was sat at home in Derby, working through my father’s photographic archive. I happened to scan this photograph of Exeter Cathedral, dated 1951. Even though I know the Cathedral well, it took me some time to recognise it. I think this was because of the covering over the West window. I’ve since seen another photograph of the Cathedral taken on VE day which also shows this covering. My guess is that it may have been related to the bomb damage the Cathedral suffered on 3-4 May 1942 as a target of the Baedeker raids. While the Nazis usually targeted sites of military, economic or strategic value, these raids specifically targeted culturally or historically important sites. Much of Exeter city centre was destroyed but the Cathedral survived relatively intact, with the main damage being restricted to St James’ Chapel on the South side.

Exeter Cathedral 1951I took the second photograph a few hours later after my eldest daughter had successfully driven her first car (and me) 220 miles down the motorway to her home. You can, of course, no longer park directly in front of the Cathedral and the mature tree on the left of the picture is long gone. The stonework around the entrance seems to be much cleaner than it was, probably due to a combination of hard work by the cathedral stonemasons and lower air pollution. Otherwise, in a city that has seen many changes since the 1950s, the 600 year old Cathedral comfortingly looks much the same as it did 65 years ago.

Exeter Cathedral 2016

Foreign exchange controls in 1955 and 1969

I was sorting through some more of my late father’s things and came across this leaflet, dated March 1955. It details the foreign exchange restrictions that were in force at the time. These were of relevance to my father as he made what I believe to be his first trip abroad in 1956. £25 is equivalent to approximately £600 in 2016 terms.

Foreign exchange controls were finally abolished in 1979, having been a feature for most of the post-second world war period. One particularly lively exchange in the House of Commons in 1969 over a proposal to remove them is documented in Hansard. Moved by John Peel, the Conservative MP for Leicester South East, he introduced his argument that the (then £50) limit should be abolished like this:

I regard this limit on our travel freedom as a typical piece of frustrating Socialism. It is an obstruction to one of the dearest freedoms of the British people, namely, our ancient freedom to travel and to move amongst other peoples and in other countries where and when we want.

The motion was eventually defeated, but it seems highly unlikely to me that this was because of the speech made during the debate by Hector Hughes, the Labour MP for Aberdeen North. I reproduce it in all of its dubious glory below, reflecting that the attitudes expressed do not necessarily seem to be a million miles away from those held by some present-day “Vote Leave” supporters.

Britain today is in a very particular and peculiar financial position. That is one reason why I oppose the Motion.

The Motion is typically anti-British. It is, therefore, unpatriotic and should be defeated. It is designed to drain from Britain money which is badly needed at home.

It used to be said that it was necessary for one’s education to travel abroad. That is no longer necessary. We have the amenities, the instruction and the advantages of countries all over the world without travelling. As Shakespeare said, we have, England, bound in with the triumphant sea, Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege. There is no need today for people to go abroad to obtain what used to be called the advantages of travel.

I oppose this wrong-headed Motion on several grounds which I shall state briefly and seriatim. First, we need the money at home. Secondly, our holiday camps need holiday workers and holiday makers. Thirdly, our hotels, both at the seaside and in the country, need visitors and money. I know that the beautiful city of Aberdeen, which I have the honour to represent, could do with more visitors than it gets today. In the present international situation Britain needs attention at home, both at work and in play.

In our present circumstances we should not pour our largesse abroad. We live in particular circumstances when such money as we have in Britain should be retained. The time may come when the authors of the Motion will have their way and we may pour money into foreign countries. Where are we to go? To dictatorships? To Spain? To Greece? No; I say we should keep our money at home and enjoy the advantages and the fruits of Britain.

It is old-fashioned nonsense to say that we must go abroad for our education. We have at home all that we want. The other evening on television I had the advantage of seeing pictures of five countries. In our modern libraries there are books of a descriptive character. We have every advantage at home without pouring our money abroad into foreign countries. Butlins and other holiday camps offer not only education but enjoyment to people who want to stay at home. It is wrong for the authors of the Motion to try to induce the Chancellor to change his beneficent rule about the £50 allowance. Let us stay at home. Let us protect our industry. Let us encourage trade, industry, commerce and employment here, instead of spending our money abroad.

More photographs of Spondon Garage in the 1950s

It would appear that my father had a mild obsession with Spondon Garage in the 1950s. I’ve found a few more photographs that may be of interest to those who remember the place before it was demolished to make way for housing.

The first I can date very precisely, as there was an index card with the negative. It was taken at 5.45pm on 23rd June 1951 – a Saturday. There’s someone on the forecourt, but other than that it looks deserted. Not many garages are at that time on a Saturday these days! It’s also interesting to see different brands of fuel represented at the same garage – Shell, Esso & BP Power.

Spondon Garage 23-06-1951 1745The next photograph was in a box marked 1953 and although at first glance it looks very similar, the Esso pump from 1951 has been replaced by one serving BP fuel and there’s also a shelter for the attendants on the forecourt (which wasn’t present in the photographs I have from 1952). Business also looks to have picked up a little!

Spondon Garage 1953The final two photographs from 1953 show the view from the forecourt, the first of which looks towards Willowcroft Road. This view seems very similar to how Nottingham Road appears today. You can also see that the garage has a National branded fuel pump. My own earliest memories of Spondon Garage are from when it sold fuel under the National brand (who would ever forget their merchandising tie-up with the Smurfs).

Nottingham Road to WIllowcroft RoadFinally, a view looking in the other direction towards Derby. The traffic island leading towards British Celanese look very well-tended, with a number of smart ‘Keep Left’ bollards. On the right hand side of the frame you can just make out the Westminster Bank sign. This building still exists today but is now a private house. What’s very noticeable by their absence are the houses that now exist on that side of the road leading from the bank to where the traffic island with the A52 dual carriageway is today. Oh, and of course, there’s hardly any traffic to be seen.

Nottingham Road Spondon - view towards Derby

Spondon Caravan Centre in the early 1950s

While going through a box of my grandfather’s photographs, I came across this picture of Spondon Caravan Centre that I believe is from the early 1950s – possibly taken at around the same time as these pictures of Spondon Garage. I don’t have the negative, so the image was taken directly from the print using my Epson V550 scanner.

Spondon Caravan CentreThe picture looks to have been taken from near the junction of Willowcroft Road and Nottingham Road. The mock tudor building in the background is the Moon Hotel on Station Road.

My guess is that the reason the picture was taken was that my grandfather purchased a caravan from there. The two pictures of his caravan that follow were stored with this one.

Caravan exteriorCaravan exterior

Caravan interior   Caravan interior

It all looks rather basic compared to the fully fitted, double-glazed and heated caravans of 2016.

Spondon in colour 1956: Before the Borrowash bypass

Many of you enjoyed the black and white photographs of the A52 bypass being built through Spondon I posted here a few weeks ago. I’ve also managed to unearth a few colour slides of Spondon in 1956. These were taken before the bypass was built, presumably in late spring / early summer judging by the state of the foliage.

Willowcroft Road 1956Willowcroft Road – with no bridge!

Kirk Leys Avenue 1956The view across Willowcroft Road towards Kirk Leys Avenue

Spondon Methodist Church 1956Spondon Methodist Church

Lodge Lane 1956Lodge Lane

Derby Road 1956Derby Road

I can place the exact location from where the first four of these photographs were taken quite easily. The fifth is a little more puzzling to me. The original slide is labelled Derby Road, but I’m not sure which section it is or the direction that the photograph has been taken towards. My best guess is that it’s facing towards Spondon Garage, taken from around where the Asda roundabout is today. However, there seems to be too many houses on the right hand side of the image for that to be right.

Any help you can give me in working out where the final slide was taken from would be appreciated!

British Celanese and the Queen’s visit to Spondon Station, 1957

The first four photographs of British Celanese come from the same roll of film as the ones showing the construction of the A52 at Willowcroft Road. This means that they will date from either 1956 or 1957, as the roll (and this post) finishes with three taken on the day of the Queen’s visit to Derby. It’s been suggested that the reason her train stopped at Spondon, rather than at Derby Midland, was to allow more people to witness her visit to the town.

British Celanese 1957A view from Celanese Road looking towards Holme Lane.
British Celanese 1957The view from Spondon station.
British Celanese 1957The main site entrance.
British Celanese 1957A view of the administration block. Spondon signal box can also be seen in the distance on the left hand side.

The Queen's visit to Derby, 1957The Queen’s visit to Spondon station, 1957.

The Queen's visit to Spondon, 1957It looks like security was relatively low-key!

The Queen's visit to Spondon, 1957The view from Station Road, with a small crowd gathered on the footbridge in front of the station.