First posted 1 December 2009
In the small town where I live, there used to be a company who became famous for making illustrated postcards. These humorous cards showed cartoon images of seaside holidaymakers and ordinary working people and often had double entendre meanings.
The company was known as Bamforths and although the cards they produce are famous worldwide, not many people are aware that they also had a photographic studio. In their early days they were leading producers of magic lantern slides on subjects such as romance, tragedy and the temperance movement. They also produced movies which were seen all over the world. According to Wikipedia, the films made here in Holmfirth, surpassed those made by Hollywood at the time!
If the company had not ceased the film making part of their business during the first world war (due to shortages), the place where I live could have been the centre of the worlds film industry. When film making finished they continued with postcard production up to the latter part of the 20th Century.
The company closed in the early 1990’s and the daylight photographic studio of the building was turned into homes. The rest of the building was left to rot and a few years ago plans were put forward to develop the site and build a large new development of flats. These were opposed by locals, but the work seems to be going ahead anyway.
About fifteen years ago I was approached by a local man who had been living behind the derelict Bamforths building and had discovered a pile of old lantern slides covered with pieces of carpet. The slides had suffered some damage from years of weather, but images could still be seen. He gave me the glass positives and I stored them away in my studio. I was reminded of them recently as I walked past the old Bamforths building and noticed workmen knocking down one of the smaller buildings (the little studio where the illustrations were drawn). I approached one of the guys and asked if it would be ok to have a quick search round the back to see if there were any more lantern slides hidden in the undergrowth.
He waved me through and I clambered over rubble and weeds to a little area behind a wall where my friend had located the glass images so many years ago.
I hadn’t been prepared for the fact that not only had the whole area been left to go wild with creeping plants and nettles, but the nearby houses had used this ‘waste’ ground for years to dump all their grass cuttings, old pushchairs and broken pots. I struggled through and found an old iron bar which I used to dig around and lift rubbish, but all I could find was clear squares of glass and broken pieces of glass which had once held images. The emulsion had completely rotted away from these.
It was quite depressing to find no trace of the photographic history, so I went back to the studio and dug around in my own collection for the lantern slides that I had been given years previously.
I found some really interesting images, not least of which, are three photographs of the Lusitania in Liverpool docks.
Although the search had come to nothing, it had spurred me on to find the Glass lantern slides I had forgotten I owned. How many other great images had been lost to the damp and cold though? If only I had gone to search after I received this small collection.