Monday, October 18, 2010

1860s Update

The response to this post about a Victorian photograph album that was almost destroyed has been overwhelming. It probably helped that one of the images featured this rather terrifying looking gentleman:

Align LeftWithin hours, bloggers all over the world were arguing about how many of the photos featured dead people. Apparently, it wasn't unusual for Victorians to dress the recently departed in their Sunday best for one last family portrait and, with the requirement to stand still for long periods of time, the deceased had a clear advantage. It's a spooky thought.

However, I'm not particularly good at determining whether people are alive or dead. I got it wrong with my wife's grandmother and I'm not making that mistake again, so I shall stick to the more earthly matter of where these photos were taken.

The general consensus has been that the photos from this album are from the Lake District, but after extensive research (i.e. a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon), I can now confirm that they come from a village a few miles south of Lancaster called Cockerham.

Here is the evidence:


The two photos of St Michael's church are pretty conclusive, but I was less convinced by this match:


Even allowing for alterations, the two incarnations of the Manor Inn seemed very different.

But then I found this:

According to this webpage, when the original Manor Inn closed, its owner bought the Plough Inn and renamed it after his old pub.

The album also featured several photographs of this church:

This proved to be the greatest challenge. I scoured Google images for Lake District churches, then Lancashire, followed by Yorkshire; but nothing matched. I began to wonder if the church had been demolished or destroyed - surely somewhere with such a distinctive spire would appear on Google?

Fortunately, once I'd confirmed Cockerham as the location for many of the photos, I was able to narrow my search to the neighbouring villages and within minutes, I found this:



It's in a nearby village called Ellel, which has inspired one of the shortest Wikipedia entries I've ever come across.

The questions I really want an answer to will, of course, remain a tantalising mystery. But I like the fact that 150 years on, these places are still recognisable and that if I want to, I can still enjoy a pint at the Manor Inn.

STOP PRESS - In a slightly spooky twist of fate, it has emerged that Cockerham is very well known to the writer Sam Jordison, who kindly mentioned this blog in a Guardian post in August.

He had one of his first pints in the Manor Inn!

Visit the comments secition to learn more.

37 comments:

Martin H. said...

I'm afraid the Victorian death photography was not uncommon, See Here

Steerforth said...

I don't know whether it says more about the Victorians or our relative lack of exposure to bereavement. Thanks for the link - fascinating stuff.

Cal said...

That church, the first one, seems to have completely different windows in the then and now shots. And the roof is different too. (Has a lower 'extension' at the back in the older photo)

If it is the same place I'd be fascinated to know when and why the changes happened

CC said...

Fascinating history.

sukipoet said...

quite a lot of good detective work on your part. It IS nice to know that everything from the previous century has not been torn down. Here, so many lovely old buildings are demolished to make way for little mansions and so on.

George H. said...

"Wisconsin Death Trip," is a good book on this subject.

JRSM said...

"I got it wrong with my wife's grandmother and I'm not making that mistake again..."

What? This is a story we need to hear!

Shelley said...

I write about people who are pretty tough, but some of the photographs of faces from the 19th century--life must have been so hard-scrabble then that the faces look almost feral in their determination to survive.

curator said...

The myth of the victorian death photo has spread like wildfire. Yes dead bodies were photographed but they were very, very rarely, if ever, propped up. Look at any respected collection of post mortem photographs. They are lying down. You will not find photos of vaguely creepy people from the past with strange eyes standing up or "propped" in a chair.

The aparatus usually put forward as evidence of a post mortem photo - the wood block behind the feet or the brace at the neck or head - were commonplace devices for keeping the subject still in front of a long exposure. They are called posing stands -

http://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/dagprocess.htm

The strange glazed or vacant eyes is a result of blinking or movement during exposure.

None of the photos in the original post have the slightest look of post mortem photography. There is simply nothing in any of them to suggest the people in them are not living. Apart from that, the quality of the album is interesting but not exceptional. Still great to see the scenes as they are today though, good work.

Brett said...

What fun! You have the makings of a reference librarian. I love the sheep. I think one of your field trips is in order.

I am still not convinced that he is dead. I think that he is just extremely sober and flinty.

Lucille said...

Very satisfying seeing these matching pictures from your research. Think how long it would have taken before.

Sam Jordison said...

Now this is strange. After saying in a comment on your original post that I'd like a pint in The Manor Inn, it turns out to be one of the very first places I had a beer. And a place, indeed, where I briefly worked as a glass collector.

(The building under scaffolding could be current The Manor Inn, too...)

Yes, by odd coincidence, I'm one of the very few people to have actually grown up in Cockerham (only about 400 people live there, I think).

I may well have gone to primary school with descendants of people in the photos! (There were a couple that looked a bit like the man in the first photo, in fact...)

I have to pour a measure cold water on the theory, however. I'm sure that some of these photos aren't of Cockerham.

The church looks like the right one (I actually did a primary school project on that church and recall it went through quite a few alterations in the late 19th century).

The fellows with guns may be from Cockerham too, as there's good shooting nearby. And even an old shooting lodge (called Crookey Hall, evocatively enough, which had been turned into a school for bad lads from Liverpool when I lived there. My local cub pack used to play football against them. They were all very nice. And once they got the score to 12-0, they used to let us score a couple of consolation goals.)

The cow might be right as it's a dairy farming area.

But the fourth photo down in the original post isn't Cockerham, or anywhere near that I know of. It's very flat round there for a start. And that fifth of the horse going through the hills isn't anywhere near either... I think the post on your flickr group identifying it as Honister is right.

The lovely steam boat isn't right either. Too posh. Too much on a lake.

Clearly the photographer moved around the north.

Anyway, good to have positive identifcation on a few of them. And I am quite freaked out by the fact that I didn't recognise the photos that are Cockerham, after spending so many of my early years there. It's clearly because it was very much the last place I was expecting to turn up on this website - or any other!

Now I'm wondering how the photos from Cockerham made their way down to you in Sussex? What journeys have they been on? How many times were they nearly destroyed? Where did those old farmers think the pictures were going to end up when they first posed for them?

The Poet Laura-eate said...

It is great to see some 'before and after' photos which are not too depressing for words (ie housing estate where rustic pub used to be). Many thanks for your diligent efforts in tracking these buildings down Steerforth. Am impressed you managed it in two hours!

What a faux pax to make about Mrs Steerforth's granny! I think we should be told.

Steerforth said...

Thanks for such an interesting and thought-provoking set of comments.

Cal - it definitely is the same church - look at the walls and the tower.

Sukipoet - it's remarkable how much has survived from the past, in spite of the Luftwaffe and 1960s town planners.

George.H - I'll check this out.

JRSM - I'm afraid it's not a great anecdote - just the usual misunderstanding you have when someone on their mid-90s is sleeping heavily.

Shelley - Yes, there are some tough-looking characters, but the fact that they're often pictured holding their dogs suggests a tender side.

Curator - Thanks for this information. I must admit, I couldn't quite understand why so many people could see corpses. I thought I was missing something.

Brett - I was a reference library assistant for a few months when I was a student, but not a very good one. I would have made a terrible librarian.

I've love to explore Cockerham. I shall try to go next year.

Lucille - You're quite right. A friend was being quite dismissive about the internet the other day, but I love the fact that I can do this sort of research from a horizontal position, with a glass of wine at my side. It's all very civilised.

Steerforth said...

Sam - I've just read your comment and I'm freaked out too! How bizarre. I love the internet.

I presume that the album was part of a house clearance that was donated to charity, but where it came from and who it belonged to is impossible to trace, as we receive thousands of items every day.

There's a story here somewhere.

Steerforth said...

Yes, Laura - it is nice to see some 'then and now' photos where landscape hasn't been ruined by developers.

Thomas at My Porch said...

You took an already fascinating set of photos and made them even more interesting. Even knowing how much buildings can change over time, I too wondered at first if the similarities to the first church were enough for a positive ID. I was leaning toward yes, when I saw the additional photo matches.

It is indeed very cool to know that these buildings are still there and identifiable. What is even cooler is that you were able to make the connection so easily with your fancy 21st century Googling.

music-books-steve said...

For fascinating pictures of buildings drastically changing over time see How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built" by Stewart Brand (Penguin, 1995).

music-books-steve said...

According to the Wikipedia article titled "List of ecclesiastical works by Austin and Paley (1895–1914)" (with sources duly cited) St. Michael's, Cockerham was renovated in 1910. For full details, see Images of England. where it is made clear that the 16th century tower survived the renovations. I have not found pictures of the church before the renovation, but judging from their titles, it seems likely that the sources cited by the above would have them.

Steerforth said...

Many thanks for this Steve.

Anonymous said...

How wonderful to find the exact location for the photos! That is one of the things I love most about England -- stuff lasts. In North America, bldgs. are torn down about five minutes after they were built. Even public bldgs. suffer the same fate. In Seattle, the arena the Kingdome was considered unsafe in an earthquake and torn down before the bonds issued to build it had even been paid off. Most of the Coliseum in Rome has been standing for thousands of years, so why can't modern builders put up a stadium that lasts more than twenty years? Go figure.
Canadian Chickadee

Steerforth said...

I saw a fascinating programme a couple of years ago about what would happen if humans suddenly ceased to exist. The main focus was on London and it was shocking to learn that some of the most prestigious post-War building projects would start to fall apart within a few years.

It was argued that in a few hundred years, everything would have been reclaimed by nature apart from London's oldest buildings. The Tower of London would be an island of stone in a sea of green.

If the Romans had invented reinforced concrete, then there would be no Colliseum.

music-books-steve said...

I've become temporarily obsessed with your photos of Cockerham.

A small clarification regarding the Manor Inn. The Cockerham history site that you've linked to consists almost entirely of extracts from 'Northward' by Anthony Hewitson as published ca. 1900, so all reference to "the present" there refer to 1900-ish.

Also, I notice that the image of St. Michael's shown there, although labeled only as "Cockerham Church", shows the pre-1910 form of the church and is almost an exact match with your photo (Cockerham Church).

And before we get too sentimental about the permanence of British village architecture it should be noted that the church in Cockerham was re-built in 1814 and then remodeled enough in 1910 to cause the questions about identification that we've been discussing here (see the link in my previous post).

music-books-steve said...

I think I may have identified your Flickr pic #41. It appears to be the Rectory Gardens in Cockerham, formerly the vicarage.
Or another view (it's for sale!): Rectory Gardens!

Anonymous said...

About 20 years ago when I was a student in NYC I chanced upon a recently set out heap of trash on the street, with boxes of photographs strewn into the mix and all over the pavement. I picked up as many as I could and have them to this day. All old (e. 20th century)black and white photos of peasant people, including a scene of a very elderly woman in a coffin with dozens of children and (presumably) family members gathered around (you rarely would see the same in modern times - too ghoulish? Or is death just sanitized to, well, death, today?). Many of the photos have writing on the back of them in an Eastern European language I've yet to decipher - since I am of (peasant) Eastern European stock, no doubt someone will find them after I give up the ghost and think they are part of the family! I find it terribly sad that someone's life and treasured family history was just thrown on the street and treated as worthless after they died or moved on. So it's a happy occasion when photos albums like this can be saved and shared. It allows these 'lost people' to live on in a way. Kim

Sam Jordison said...

That is interesting! Can you recall what the programme was called. I'd love to watch that.

Is Ozymandian a word one can use?

Steerforth said...

I think the programme was Life After People. It was a Channel Four series - probably narrated by Sam West. They usually are.

Kim - what a wonderful find. Do you have a Flickr account that you could share these photos on?

Steve - this is wonderful. Thanks for shedding some more light on these photos - the pieces are gradually coming together.

music-books-steve said...

I am taking the liberty of another (last?) post regarding some of the photos in your fascinating collection. I imagine that you might know some of this already, but since it hasn't appeared here, and may be of use to researchers closer to the scene than I (I'm in Minneapolis). Here goes.

Cockerham: There is a short description almost coeval with your pictures in John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, available here Cockerham.

The vicarage (flickr album # 48) was built in 1843 according to the date above the door (1843), so this isn’t much help in dating your album.

There is an photo of the Manor/Plough Inn taken in the 1950s which at least closes the gap between images by half a century and shows that the major changes in the ground floor windows happened before then.

Ellel: The church with the distinctive spire was consecrated as St. Mary's in 1873, thereby proving that this photo is from the 1870s (page 7 of this pdf). The church is on the grounds of Ellel Grange and was built by the owner of the grange, the Liverpool merchant William Preston, and designed by William James Audsley and George Ashdown Audsley. The church is in poor condition and is currently owned by Ellel Ministries who have renamed it Kings Lee Chapel.) There are plans to renovate it.
(Heritage Open Days; Ellel Ministires; Heritage at Risk

Ambleside (flickr album #6): There is, of course, no shortage of images of Ambleside, but here are two that might be of particular interest. First, an image contemporary with yours (1850-70) by Francis Frith (V & A Images). Second, a modern (bird’s eye view taken from a vantage point reasonably close to yours and therefore providing an interesting then-and-now comparison.

Dublin Exhibiton (flickr album #34): Perhaps you have seen this image from the Illustrated London News, but it is strikingly like yours.
As to the dating of the firm of J. W. Benson as discussed on flickr by Obsidianram, the dates provided there can be refined according to information found at Chris Balm watches showing that the firm used this name from the 1850s. “The company was founded by James William Benson (born in 1826 in Reading) and his older brother (or cousin?) Samuel Stuckley Benson (born 1822). They traded as S.S. & J.W. Benson until 1855. From this time on James William continued the business under his own name, J.W. Benson. In 1878 James William Benson died aged 52, and his sons Alfred and Arthur continued the business. The company's premises were: Cornhill (1849-64), Ludgate Hill (1854-1937), 25 Old Bond Street (1872-3) and 28 Royal Exchange (1892-1937).” This earlier dating, therefore, would make it possible for them to have exhibited in Dublin in 1865.

music-books-steve said...

I am taking the liberty of another (last?) post regarding some of the photos in your fascinating collection. I imagine that you might know some of this already, but since it hasn't appeared here, and may be of use to researchers closer to the scene than I (I'm in Minneapolis). Here goes.

Cockerham: There is a short description almost coeval with your pictures in John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, available here Cockerham.

The vicarage (flickr album # 48) was built in 1843 according to the date above the door (1843), so this isn’t much help in dating your album.

There is an photo of the Manor/Plough Inn taken in the 1950s which at least closes the gap between images by half a century and shows that the major changes in the ground floor windows happened before then.

Ellel: The church with the distinctive spire was consecrated as St. Mary's in 1873, thereby proving that this photo is from the 1870s (page 7 of this pdf). The church is on the grounds of Ellel Grange and was built by the owner of the grange, the Liverpool merchant William Preston, and designed by William James Audsley and George Ashdown Audsley. The church is in poor condition and is currently owned by Ellel Ministries who have renamed it Kings Lee Chapel.) There are plans to renovate it.
(Heritage Open Days; Ellel Ministires; Heritage at Risk

Ambleside (flickr album #6): There is, of course, no shortage of images of Ambleside, but here are two that might be of particular interest. First, an image contemporary with yours (1850-70) by Francis Frith (V & A Images). Second, a modern (bird’s eye view taken from a vantage point reasonably close to yours and therefore providing an interesting then-and-now comparison.

Dublin Exhibiton (flickr album #34): Perhaps you have seen this image from the Illustrated London News, but it is strikingly like yours.
As to the dating of the firm of J. W. Benson as discussed on flickr by Obsidianram, the dates provided there can be refined according to information found at Chris Balm watches showing that the firm used this name from the 1850s. “The company was founded by James William Benson (born in 1826 in Reading) and his older brother (or cousin?) Samuel Stuckley Benson (born 1822). They traded as S.S. & J.W. Benson until 1855. From this time on James William continued the business under his own name, J.W. Benson. In 1878 James William Benson died aged 52, and his sons Alfred and Arthur continued the business. The company's premises were: Cornhill (1849-64), Ludgate Hill (1854-1937), 25 Old Bond Street (1872-3) and 28 Royal Exchange (1892-1937).” This earlier dating, therefore, would make it possible for them to have exhibited in Dublin in 1865.

music-books-steve said...

I am taking the liberty of another (last?) set of posts regarding some of the photos in your fascinating collection. I imagine that you might know some of this already, but since it hasn't appeared here, and may be of use to researchers closer to the scene than I (I'm in Minneapolis). Here goes.

Cockerham: There is a short description almost coeval with your pictures in John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, available here Cockerham.

The vicarage (flickr album # 48) was built in 1843 according to the date above the door (1843), so this isn’t much help in dating your album.

There is an photo of the Manor/Plough Inn taken in the 1950s which at least closes the gap between images by half a century and shows that the major changes in the ground floor windows happened before then.

music-books-steve said...

Part2 (This note was too long to post and I had to divide it.)

Ellel: The church with the distinctive spire was consecrated as St. Mary's in 1873, thereby proving that this photo is from the 1870s (page 7 of this pdf). The church is on the grounds of Ellel Grange and was built by the owner of the grange, the Liverpool merchant William Preston, and designed by William James Audsley and George Ashdown Audsley. The church is in poor condition and is currently owned by Ellel Ministries who have renamed it Kings Lee Chapel.) There are plans to renovate it.
(Heritage Open Days; Ellel Ministires; Heritage at Risk

Ambleside (flickr album #6): There is, of course, no shortage of images of Ambleside, but here are two that might be of particular interest. First, an image contemporary with yours (1850-70) by Francis Frith (V & A Images). Second, a modern (bird’s eye view taken from a vantage point reasonably close to yours and therefore providing an interesting then-and-now comparison.

Dublin Exhibiton (flickr album #34): Perhaps you have seen this image from the Illustrated London News, but it is strikingly like yours.
As to the dating of the firm of J. W. Benson as discussed on flickr by Obsidianram, the dates provided there can be refined according to information found at Chris Balm watches showing that the firm used this name from the 1850s. “The company was founded by James William Benson (born in 1826 in Reading) and his older brother (or cousin?) Samuel Stuckley Benson (born 1822). They traded as S.S. & J.W. Benson until 1855. From this time on James William continued the business under his own name, J.W. Benson. In 1878 James William Benson died aged 52, and his sons Alfred and Arthur continued the business. The company's premises were: Cornhill (1849-64), Ludgate Hill (1854-1937), 25 Old Bond Street (1872-3) and 28 Royal Exchange (1892-1937).” This earlier dating, therefore, would make it possible for them to have exhibited in Dublin in 1865.

music-books-steve said...

Part 2 (My note was too long to post and I had to divide it.)

Ellel: The church with the distinctive spire was consecrated as St. Mary's in 1873, thereby proving that this photo is from the 1870s (page 7 of this pdf). The church is on the grounds of Ellel Grange and was built by the owner of the grange, the Liverpool merchant William Preston, and designed by William James Audsley and George Ashdown Audsley. The church is in poor condition and is currently owned by Ellel Ministries who have renamed it Kings Lee Chapel.) There are plans to renovate it.
(Heritage Open Days; Ellel Ministires; Heritage at Risk

Ambleside (flickr album #6): There is, of course, no shortage of images of Ambleside, but here are two that might be of particular interest. First, an image contemporary with yours (1850-70) by Francis Frith (V & A Images). Second, a modern (bird’s eye view taken from a vantage point reasonably close to yours and therefore providing an interesting then-and-now comparison.

music-books-steve said...

Part 3
Dublin Exhibiton (flickr album #34): Perhaps you have seen this image from the Illustrated London News, but it is strikingly like yours.
As to the dating of the firm of J. W. Benson as discussed on flickr by Obsidianram, the dates provided there can be refined according to information found at Chris Balm watches showing that the firm used this name from the 1850s. “The company was founded by James William Benson (born in 1826 in Reading) and his older brother (or cousin?) Samuel Stuckley Benson (born 1822). They traded as S.S. & J.W. Benson until 1855. From this time on James William continued the business under his own name, J.W. Benson. In 1878 James William Benson died aged 52, and his sons Alfred and Arthur continued the business. The company's premises were: Cornhill (1849-64), Ludgate Hill (1854-1937), 25 Old Bond Street (1872-3) and 28 Royal Exchange (1892-1937).” This earlier dating, therefore, would make it possible for them to have exhibited in Dublin in 1865.

Steerforth said...

As the Victorians would say, I'm deeply indebted to you. I have very little spare time to do any background research, so it's wonderful that someone has added so much to the background of these photos.

I was fairly certain about the 1865 Dublin Exhibition, as the motif on the iron railings of the mezzanine area in the photo were too similar to those in a contemporary engraving.

I'm upset that St Mary's has gone "low church" and been renamed. I hope that it will be truly restored.

I've tried your links, but none of them work, which is very frustrating as you have clearly done some fantastic research. I shall try and get to the bottom of this.

Many thanks.

music-books-steve said...

This message is not meant to be posted. I was afraid that the links might be a problem, as I was getting very strange error messages, although I thought I had worked around the issue and decided to re-post anyway. Feel free to remove the posts if you think that the bad links will be an issue. I will re-send this message as an e-mail, and if I figure out what's going on with the links, I'll re-post here. Linking has never been a problem on these blogs before, so it's a mystery.

Ray said...

An excellent blog. I took the photo of the Manor Inn in July 2007. Had a drink in there recently its a good pub nice food. The whole area has a fascinating connection with its history there are stories to be found everywhere. Well worth a visit.cophove

Anonymous said...

Jean H.
The first time I have been on this site and I come across my old family Church at Ellel Grange, I used to live at the farm just below it Cragg Hall Farm and attend every Sunday, the vicar was from Cockerham and only came for 3/4 hr after he had finished at Cockerham Church. In the In 1950 the steeple was renavated and the steeple jacks stayed with us for about six weeks while doing it,I am sorry they have renamed it as a Chapel, when it is a beautiful Church, it belonged to the Sandiman family then.