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Thursday, 19 March 2020

Bridlington

I like this photograph. It was taken in the late nineteen-twenties at the Yorkshire seaside resort of Bridlington. The location appears to be beside the harbour wall looking up to Garrison Street.

Bridlington Harbour: c1929

There is something about the figures, their clothes and expressions, the composition, the depth of focus and the greyscale tones that reminds me of photographs by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, the celebrated Whitby photographer. They all look very serious, as if about to emigrate to the New World perhaps, whereas, actually, they are on board for a short trip around Flamborough Head.

My dad, aged about 7, is to the right with his Jackie Coogan cap tight on his head, and my grandfather, in front of him, looks very smart in a suit and flat cap. They seem to be the only ones without raincoats or waterproofs, unless those loose ones are for their use. None appear to have life jackets. One wonders who the others in the picture were: are they three couples or is one of the women the daughter of the older man: Somerset Maugham with a pipe? Who could now know? My dad could easily be assumed to be with the couple behind him.

We have lots of other family pictures at Bridlington in the nineteen-twenties and -thirties: in deck chairs, on the beach by the sea wall, digging in the sand, paddling in the sea, walking around town. One, some two decades later, shows my pregnant mum with my dad and others on the sands. Nanna is gazing down at her bump with me inside as if for a caption competition.

On Bridlington beach

Later, when I was little, we continued to go to Bridlington. Here I am in front of the Spa buildings, digging on the beach near the breakwater in my baggy white underpants. They look as if they would still fit me. I bet they made wonderful car polishing cloths. We went on the same trip around Flamborough, and when the sea was calm Dad would hire a rowing boat and row us out beyond the harbour mouth. I also remember visiting the Flamborough headland and being frightened by the fog-horn.


I haven’t been back much since. It seems to have a lot of noisy rides and fast food smells now. But, hoping to repeat history, I went with my young family one day in 2004. The cold wind and rough sea were too daunting for a sea trip, so we drove to Flamborough instead and climbed the 119 internal steps to the top of the lighthouse, terrified of the drop down the middle. Scary place, Flamborough.

Lamp room: Flamborough lighthouse

For the nerds amongst us, Flamborough Head is a promontory to the north of Bridlington, the northern end of a band of cretaceous chalk that stretches through Eastern England down to the South Coast. A  27-metre lighthouse sits on top of 30-metre cliffs, giving a range of 28 miles to the horizon, high enough on a clear day to be able to see the Humber Bridge to the south near Hull. Inside the lamp room, a four-panel catadioptric lens revolves around an enormous light bulb (in the top central  square in the picture) to create a signature code of four flashes every fifteen seconds. It continues to revolve even when the bulb is off so as not to concentrate the sun’s rays and start fires. The light was automated in 1996 but when we visited there were still reserved parking places for the non-existent staff.

Flamborough Head from the air (looking South)

37 comments:

  1. Did people even HAVE life jackets in the late 1920s?

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    1. Good point. I think the four in the middle are sitting on a life raft. It has ropes around to make it easier to hang on to.

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  2. You have some wonderful pictures! I agree with you about that first one as everything about it seems quite special and professional, yet still natural. I would expect to see that in a history book perhaps. You were a cute little guy! The other pictures are wonderful as well. I don't know if I would be able to climb the lighthouse steps as I am not too fond of heights.

    Isn't it funny how we remember things a certain way at a favorite vacation spot but when we go back as an adult it is never the same. Things change I know but then so do we and maybe more than we realize.

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    1. I'm still a cute little guy - well, maybe not so little. Havingh sorted out these pictures it might be nice to revisit once the warmer weather is here, assuming we're not all in lock-down. It has a long beach and promenade so it should be easy to keep away from the commercialised bit.

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    2. The thing about the lighthouse steps is that they wind round and round inside against the wall, but there is no central pillar or hand rail, just a massive drop. I'm not kidding, I kept as close to the wall as I could.

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  3. I like the girls' hats in the Flamborough boat picture. (I doubt lifejackets would have been thought about in those days).

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    1. Women had lovely hats then. It seems odd that two men don't have hats as I thought everyone wore them then. Maybe it's because they were on holiday. Lifejackets - see reply to Debra above.

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  4. So far, I have been to "Briddie", as my late husband called it, only once, and I must admit I didn't enjoy it. It was noisy and crowded, and I didn't feel safe in those crowds, clutching my handbag all the time. What a contrast to Filey, which we visited on the same day. I remember it as this vast expanse of golden-brown sand, much quieter, with few people about in spite of it being a beautiful summer's day.
    I am sure Bridlington, like Scarborough, was much nicer in the past, with people dressing and behaving better than nowadays.

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    1. We called it "Brid". As replied to Bonnie, above, it might be nice to visit again but to keep away from the vulgar area. A Filey post is in mind.

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  5. Perhaps it's time to bring the Charabanc back? You made me think of childhood holidays in Scarborough. We stayed in the North bay. My mam said it was 'posher'. Super photos.

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    1. I've had to google Bridlington Charabanc. Brilliant!

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    2. Northsider, my late husband and I (and his parents before us, long ago in the 1950s) always stayed somewhere in the North bay for the very same reason! Well, maybe not for poshness, but for some peace and quiet that was difficult to find in the South bay.
      We had a favourite B&B where we came to know the owners quite well and returned every year for quite a while.

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  6. I love that your dad's always wearing a suit on the beach. It is bracing on the east coast though, isn't it?

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    1. Both my dad and grandad are wearing suits - my dad's a short-trousered one. Everybody did. It can be bracing (Skegness used to advertise that as a healthy quality) but there are lovely balmy days too.

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  7. Do you still have the underpants?

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    1. You have forgotten that underpants, no matter how pissy, were eventually always turned into brilliant polishing cloths, as mentioned above.

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    2. You were lucky not to be wearing the handknitted swimwear that wel had in the 1950s. It was definitely not recommended to get wet.

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  8. I have some photographs similar to that of my grand-parents as they were walking to board boats to take them around the area. One of them may have included me as they took each of us grand-children with them as a treat as they were always going on day trips to the sea-side. I have been to Bridlington a few times since then when I was younger and still living in Yorkshire and I have a soft spot for Flamborough Lighthouse because my Dad once had to paint it as he was a painter and decorator with Wimpey. I don't know how long it took him, but I don't suppose he was on his own. My aunt went to live there on her second marriage to a fisherman and we visited her a couple of times. I remember he was very keen on the American civil war and had posters up in the front room. So I have quite a few connections to Bridlington.

    Just as a matter of interest, where does the name Tasker come from? The reason I ask is that I have an autobiography "The Scallywags" by Peter Stockley based in Liverpool and there is someone called Tasker in it. I must admit I didn't finish it. Just curious.

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    1. I'm pleased to have sparked off some associations. Do you mean your dad painted the white part? It must have been never ending, like the Forth Bridge. As mentioned in my bio, my blogging name is a pseudonym, used so that I can write about topics such as school bullies and workplace malpractice without getting into trouble. There are a number of families with the surname Tasker in East and West Yorkshire.

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    2. I don't know which part he painted, but I do know he was away for a few days. He wouldn't have done it on his own and if I remember it right it was only the one time. I didn't read all the book, so have no idea if it was a first, last or nickname. I'd never heard the name Tasker before. Good idea to use it as a pseudonym.

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  9. I love that first photo. As you say, it is the expressions on their faces, the outfits they are wearing and that wonderful black and white other-worldiness that gives it a timeless feeling.

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    1. Google images by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe. He is unlikely to have been the photographer because he worked mainly in Whitby (where there is a Sutcliffe gallery shop), but it seems to show his influence.

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  10. CAPTION COMPETITION

    NANNA Ee lass, ah'm sure tha's bin impregnated by t'Devil! The bugger's thrashin' abaht like an eel in a bucket!

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    1. In the absence of any other entries it looks like you are going to be the winner.

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    2. Two victories in a week! I won £30 in the National Lottery on Wednesday and expect that the caption competition prize will at least match this sum.

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    3. The prize is that you can buy me a pint in a pub of your choice. Pity they're all now closed.

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  11. Love that last photograph! Smiled at the earlier photos. I have many of my parents with friends - the ladies are all wearing Summer dresses but sensible shoes and stockings. The men still wearing trilby hats and jackets. I remember when short sleeved shirts for men came into fashion my father declared he would never ever wear a shirt without collar studs! He was eventually converted.

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    1. They would have said that standards used to be higher. The last image isn't mine of course although I believe it to be in the public domain.

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  12. First pic unusually well defined and clear, for the period.

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    1. It's not just a holiday snap is it. See reply to next comment.

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  13. I wonder if that first photo was by a professional photographer, who stopped individuals, took the photo and sent it later for a fee.
    Are these cliffs near the famous racing horse, carved in the chalk cliffs thousands of years ago and maintained to this day by volunteers?

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    1. Definitely - it has reference number L2106 top left. I also suspect it was taken with a plate camera - one of those with a tripod where the photographer puts a black cloth over his head. And I would not be surprised if the photographer had been trained by the Frank Meadow Sutcliffe I mention.
      If you are thinking of the Kilburn White Horse, it is in the same general area of the country, but 50 miles apart. The Kilburn horse is cut into sandstone hills and artificially coloured white with limestone. Other chalk figures and horses are mainly in the south of England.

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  14. Fascinating and interesting photos, I remember those cold days at the seaside, shivering away with a towel wrapped round me. Also like the cloche hats the ladies are wearing, they should come back into fashion.

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    1. We were much tougher in those days. The right hat can commplement a face beautifully.

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  15. Lovely photos… but, like the old family beach photos I've got, everyone looks so solemn. Perhaps everyone's just frozen, woolen swimsuit notwithstanding!

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    1. In the first, the serious expressions seem part of its appeal. As said, they look like they're going somewhere daunting. Maybe they thought it was, or maybe they just had to wait a long time for the photographer to set up his tripod. I don't think they / we are solemn in the other photos though. My dad just has his dam building / engineering face on.

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