The Dewsbury Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

I HAVE hundreds of postcards of Dewsbury town centre taken over the last 100 years and every single one is different, even though some may look identical.

Take, for example, this week’s featured picture.

A moment in history: Market day in Market Place, Dewsbury, before the stalls were moved to the other end of town in the 1930s. There have been many big changes in Market Place over the years but the beautiful Victorian buildings still remain.

A moment in history: Market day in Market Place, Dewsbury, before the stalls were moved to the other end of town in the 1930s. There have been many big changes in Market Place over the years but the beautiful Victorian buildings still remain.

Many have been taken of this same spot, but closer scrutiny may reveal they were taken on different days or from a different angle.

I have two photographs of this particular scene, taken from a different angle, but probably at the same time and on the same day.

This one was taken from a height, probably from a four-storey office window, which gives a brilliant view of the Market Place right up to the town hall.

I have a picture of the same view taken from street level looking towards the town hall, and not from above which makes quite a difference.

Postcard collectors, like stamp collectors, are always looking for little differences, and when they find them it’s like striking gold.

We have been fortunate in this district to have had some first class photographers who day in day out were taking pictures of places of interest in the borough.

They have left us an invaluable record of our social history, and thanks to a number of avid local postcard collectors, we have managed to retain many of them.

When taking these pictures, the photographers of old could never have imagined how important they would be some day to the town’s social history.

Most which have appeared on these pages were taken by Fred Hartley and Mark Cross, who both had studios in the town, but there were also others, lesser known, like Norman Balmforth.

In war time there were strict Government rulings forbidding the use of cameras to prevent photographs being taken in certain locations which could have been of use to the enemy.

Indeed, quite a number of perfectly innocent people seen taking photographs while on holiday were arrested and taken to the nearest police station to be interrogated.

The photograph above was not taken in wartime, and is one of my favourites, kindly loaned by Hanging Heaton’s former milkman Ronnie Ellis.

Interestingly, on the back is a message from the sender, a young schoolgirl named Gwen, who was living in Nursery Wood Road, Hanging Heaton, at the time.

It is simply signed “Love, Gwen” and was sent to her school friend Margaret Hirst who was staying at Troutdale Bungalow, Borrowdale, Nr Keswick, Cumberland.

The message, which includes a reference to a new form of arithmetic just started at their school, states:

“Dear Margaret,

“Hope you are having a good time and the weather is fine. It rained here on Saturday and a few showers on Sunday. We are doing a new kind of sums so I bet you’re glad you are away.

“I hope you have not fallen in the beck,

“Love Gwen.”

It is touching to read such postcards because they talk of friendships which often lasted a lifetime because most people lived in the same village all their lives.

The messages are simple and often quite insignificant, and although the sender didn’t have much to say, they always found space to give a detailed description of the weather!

The messages, are usually only a few lines, but they are always clear – the recipient of the card is being missed and their return is eagerly awaited.

Postcards were inexpensive and because the cost of postage was cheap, they became an invaluable means of communication, unlike today where telephones and texts are the people’s first choice.

Postcards were also reliable and a constant reminder to absent friends and relatives that they were still in their thoughts.

How lovely.

Postcards brought people together, and with three deliveries a day, you could write to friends pretty often knowing they’d get it the following day, sometimes the same day.

There was no such thing as “first and second class post” because all post was first class and you didn’t have to pay any extra for it.

The good old days will always be with us, thanks to those photographers and the postcard collectors who followed them. And people like Ronnie Ellis who has kept them safe.

If you have any old postcards of Dewsbury, please share them with me so I can share them with others – tresham3@gmail.com.