Friday, June 10, 2011

More Victorians

Yesterday another Victorian photograph album appeared on my desk at work, rescued by someone in the warehouse. Sadly, it wasn't as fascinating as this album, which I found last year, but there were a few portraits which I thought were worth sharing:

I'm not quite sure why this photograph of a Spike Milligan lookalike and his wife was taken at such a jaunty angle.


The boy's face is slightly blurred because he didn't remain still, but the dog was clearly an experienced sitter.

A wonderful, strong face





The husband in this couple from Oban looks like a formidable character


The one intriguing thing about this album is the variety of locations that these photographs were taken in: Cardiff, London, Oban, Birmingham, Aberdeen and Leamington Spa - if this is a family album, they were clearly a product of the huge migration that took place during the early Victorian age, when people left their largely rural homes in search of work.

When he retired, my father traced our family tree and got back as far as the 1740s. The death certificates showed that when they lived in the rural Kentish village that had been their home for generations, my ancestors lived to a ripe old age. Then one of them moved to London and became a cab driver.

Both he and his son died in their early 50s.

18 comments:

Gardener in the Distance said...

The amazing thing about going back to Victorian photographs, often stage-set as they are by the constraints of getting the photo taken, is how familiar the expressions, manifest, averted or concealed, are. We are looking at ourselves, trapped in an age of heirachy. Steerforth, you certainly turn up some fascinating material.

MikeP said...

'The husband in this couple from Oban looks like a formidable character.'

So does the wife! I wish I worked in a job where an album of Victorian photographs might arrive on my desk in totally random fashion any day of the week. It has its downsides, no doubt, but having trouble thinking of one right now.

Tim Footman said...

Fifth one down. Nice hair.

John Peacock said...

And not a corpse among them! Hurrah!

Steerforth said...

Yes, I was going to comment on the hair, but I've been chastised for such shallow behaviour in the past.

Mike - It does have its downsides, I assure you, but it still beats most other things I've done.

Gardener - You put it perfectly: we are "looking at ourselves, trapped in an age of hierarchy", not to mention drudgery, infant mortality and bigotry. But I'd still love to visit this period.

Steerforth said...

John - I can't completely vouch for the woman in the first photo ;)

LUCEWOMAN said...

Looks as though Spike Milligan lookalike is pushing an imaginary wheelchair and buckling under the strain. I like the elegant composure of the lady in the final photograph, and wish I could get away with such an outfit on the school run.
This has reminded me about a post I read a while ago and thought you may be interested to read:
http://faithhopeandcharityshopping.blogspot.com/2011/04/memento-mori.html

Steerforth said...

Thanks Lucewoman - a great link!

Richmonde said...

Isn't this an age of hierarchy? It's just better hidden.

Steerforth said...

True, but at least it isn't as rigid as it was when Jude Fawley glanced longingly at the spires of Oxford.

(Was his surname Fawley? It's a long time since I read the book)

Little Nell said...

It definitely looks like a family album and you can see the Spike Milligan influence running through it (apart from Oscar Wilde’s hair in picture 5). Some very strong and formidable characters there.

I’m glad Luce pointed you to Memento Mori; that was one of the best posts I’ve seen.

Anonymous said...

Great photos. I particularly like the presence of the dogs. Somehow, the inclusion of animals makes the people seem more human, and real.
Thanks, Canadian Chickadee

PearlFog said...

It looks like the lady and the baby are laughing together about someone's ugly shoes that the baby's pointing out.

Wonderful stuff as always and I have to say, Oban'll do that to you. I grew up quite close to there and it's a weird little place.

Martin H. said...

I've also researched the family tree back to the mid 1700s. I have seen the same pattern. Those who lived all their lives in rural Dorset or Hampshire, generally made three score and ten...and more. One of my grandfather's uncles moved from Owermoigne, in Dorset, to Bermondsey where he found work in a brewery. He and his brother, who followed him, both died young.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

The couple from Oban clearly aren't a love match.

The fey young man with the dodgy haircut is most entertaining.

How strange your Kentish ancesters seemingly curtailing their lifespans so severely be leaving Kent. London smog?

Genius Loci said...

Keep these photos coming Steerforth, they are excellent. I agree with Gardener - we are looking at ourselves.

Without wanting to get too heavy, I can't help feel that as a society we have cut ourselves loose of our past. Yet here they still here, still visible. They are really (in the grand scheme of things) not that far away. I wonder what the people in the photograph would think of us?!

pinkyandnobrain said...

I don't fancy crossing any of the subjects of these photos, to be quite honest! Wonderful photos, as ever, thanks for sharing. I also really liked your last post 'The Problem of Evil'. Having a bit of context on our past and where we have come from is so very important as well as being completely fascinating.

Lucewoman - I completely agree, wish I could get away with dressing like that woman in the last photo in my day to day life ;-)

Sam Jordison said...

I always wonder, looking at such photos how much the sterness comes from the need to keep standing still, and how much is inherent in the sitters... Some of these people look like they haven't smiled since their parents died and left them their money.