Category Archives: Postcard

Vintage Postcards #20: Aberdovey beach huts (and Melin Ardudwy)

When I first glanced at this postcard I was focused on the busy beach scene, with the row of bijou beach huts and the slightly exotic tents that are rather reminiscent of Rudolph Valentino desert scenes.  Then I noticed the mill in the background.  In spite of the distance of the mill from the camera and the lack of detail, I was chuffed to bits to see it there because this is only the third photograph of the mill I have found.  The steam-powered roller mill, Melin Ardudwy, has been covered on a previous post.

The postcard shows 11 beach huts, and several tents.  The visitors gathered at the water’s edge, women, men and children, are all elaborately dressed in fashionable outfits with hats.  Just like previous postcards that show railway tracks on the beach, this photograph, showing beach huts summer visitors in the foreground, rail tracks at the back of the beach, the Cambrian Railway bridge beyond and the flour mill on the horizon, are all a reminder of two of Aberdovey’s important but sometimes conflicting income streams – industrialization and port trade on the one hand, and tourism on the other.  Having said that, I am sure that most visiting children will have loved to see all the goings-on on the wharf and jetty, with vessels of all size and trains with their cargoes.  It’s a busy scene.  Few have been brave enough to venture into the sea, but a few are paddling in a rather gingerly way.  None of it looks even slightly relaxing.  Visitors at this time probably arrived in greatest number by rail, but the Aberystwyth.gov.uk site says that a steamer offered trips to Aberdovey from Aberystwyth during the summer, allowing day-trippers the novelty of a cruise and the diversion of another resort.

Bathing machines near Aberystwyth c.1800. Source: Wikipedia, which in turn sourced the image from the National Library of Wales

The origins of the beach hut lie with medical professionals of the 18th Century.  Just as warmer climates were believed to be beneficial for alleviating some ailments, and the waters from natural spas at places like Bath and Harrogate were recommended for an assortment of conditions, in the 1700s, immersion in sea water began to be recommended by the medical profession as a cure-all for various health problems.  Just as ailing people began to migrate to spas to take the waters, combining the hope for a cure with the enjoyment of local entertainments, there was a gradual flow of people to the seaside, requiring both facilities for entering the sea and entertainment when back on shore.  In order to enable these early health tourists to immerse themselves in the sea whilst retaining modesty, horse-drawn bathing machines were introduced to beaches, enabling people to dispense of their clothes in privacy while the bathing machine was pulled to the water’s edge.  Initially people entered the sea naked, as in the painting of a scene near Aberystwyth, left.  Soon specially designed beach wear was designed.  By the time Victoria came to the throne in 1837, bathing machines were well established and seaside holidays were becoming increasingly popular, aided by the growth of the railway network. Queen Victoria had her own personal bathing machine at her home on the Isle of Wight (there’s a photograph of it on Wikipedia).

Initially men and women were segregated, and the bathing machines delivered men and women to the designated parts of beaches.  As beach holidays became commonplace, and all-encompassing swimwear eliminated the need for people to be delivered to the water’s edge, the need to divide men for women diminished and mixed bathing became the norm.  The upshot of all this was that bathing machines were joined and eventually replaced by fixed beach huts, which offered people the same facility to change in privacy, but also gave them somewhere to return to as a base for their day on the beach.  Once established, beach huts could be hired by the hour, the day, the week.  Eventually they could be hired by the year or purchased outright.  Beach huts today exchange hands for fairly eye-watering sums.

11 Bodfor Terrace. Source: Google Maps Street View

The reverse of the postcard gives the information that the card was posted in June 1913 from Aberdovey, the year before the First World War. The visitors were staying at 11 Bodfor Terrace, which is still rented out for holiday accommodation today.  Unlike the people in the postcard, these visitors had been swimming and the writer concludes that she and her companions were “very happy.”  It was sent to Lymm in Cheshire.

The postcard itself was one of James Valentine’s but surprisingly isn’t numbered, so no production date is available but the clothing in the photograph is consistent with the postal mark.

Main sources for this post:

A Short History of Beach Huts
https://www.beach-huts.com/history-of-beach-huts.php

The History of the Humble Beach Hut Unveiled
(For those interested in verifiable factual information, the Daily Mail is perhaps the antithesis of a research tool.  It does, however, have a review of a new book about beach huts by Karen Averby, and there are some really splendid beach hut photos on the page).
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4418120/The-history-humble-beach-hut-unveiled.html

Vintage Postcard #19: The Battery, Aberdovey

An unused postcard showing a row of cannons facing the slipway and the wharf beyond.  I had never seen a photograph of these before.  It took me a minute to realize exactly where they were located, but it was obviously the Literary Institute, which was established in 1882.  There is a photo on a stock library website taken in 1901 and showing a similar view from the Francis Frith collection.

In 1900 an article in the Welsh Gazette stated that the ultimate origins of the cannons was unknown but they had been presented to the Institute by the Urban District Council who had presented them to the Institute, and the letters G.R. on the barrels showed that they had once belonged to the Crown.

Henry Birch’s 1982 booklet about the Literary Institute (A Brief History of The Aberdovey Literary Institute 1882-1982) makes reference to the cannons in connection with celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1897, when they were rusty and badly neglected after standing outside the Institute “for some years” and it was proposed that they should be restored and mounted.  There was an unverified local story amongst older residents that the cannons were fired to celebrate the end of the siege Mafeking, and that a ship at anchor in the estuary was dismasted in the process.  The booklet says that in later years the cannons were used by boats alongside the wall as mooring posts.  By 1940 the Institute’s committee had decided that they should be scrapped to help the war effort but they were unable to find a scrap dealer who was interested.  In 1941 a letter to the Committee indicates that two were to be retained and restored “for sentimental reasons” and the others were to be “sold to the local salvage depot for 6d each.”  There is no mention of what happened to the final two.

This is a Wrench postcard, number 73082.  Evelyn Wrench, who set up Wrench Postcards in 1902 when he was in his early 20s, was celebrated as a business success story, a model for other young entrepreneurs, and several newspaper articles were written about him.  There is more about him at the end of an earlier post.

Aberdovey Vintage Postcard #18: Christmas Greetings!

 

This is the colourized version of the second vintage postcard that I posted, showing sheep being driven down the Machynlleth-Aberdovey road towards Aberdovey village. The sepia one was dated  to 1903 but according to the Tuck’s database, the colour version was issued later, appearing in the 1908/1909 and 1911/1912 Tuck’s Postcard Catalogue.  All the information about the scene, together with some details about what Aberdovey was like at that time, information about Frederick William Hayes, the artist who painted it, and Raphael Tuck and Sons, the company that produced it, are on that post.

The description on the reverse of this postcard says “Aberdovey is a pleasantly situated watering place at the mouth of the Dovey, and is noted for its trim and extensive sands and pretty cliff top shelters, from which magnificent views can be obtained.  During the summer months there is a service of passenger boats to the South of Ireland.”

This card, registration number 6233, was in the Oilette series, which came in during 1903, was one of a series of postcards of which each image was either designed to look like an oil painting or was a reproduction of an actual oil painting.  Most of Tuck’s chromographic (colour) printing was done in Germany, but this one was printed in England.  The red letters “Christmas Greetings” stand proud from the surface of the card.

I hope that everyone has a very Happy Christmas!

 

Vintage postcards #17: A special train on the Cambrian Coast Line

This must have been a wonderful sight – a steam-hauled special train on the way into Aberdovey along the side of the estuary on the Cambrian Coast Line.  The reverse of the postcard says that it was sold in aid of the Talyllyn Railway in Tywyn.  The Aberdovey stretch of the railway was established in 1864, connecting via Machynlleth to the south in 1867 (the subject of an earlier post) and the last steam engine run along the route was in 2017, marking the 150th anniversary of the Grade 2 listed Pont Y Bermo (Barmouth Bridge), that carries the line over the Mawwdach estuary.

I naively thought that it would be easy to find a date for what I thought must be an unusual event, but my assumption was wrong.   Thanks, therefore, to Sierd Jan Tuistra, via RMWeb member Martin McCowgill, who provided the information that this is one of the annual AGM weekend specials from Paddington to Towyn, 24th September 1960.  It was a double-headed special, with two engines pulling the carriages from Shrewsbury to Towyn, each pulling a coal truck before the passenger carriages. The engine at the front is 9017, otherwise known as the Dukedog class, which was the nickname for the Great Western Railway Earl Class.  Behind it is engine 7330 in the Mogul (GWR 4300) class.

Steam was not an uncommon sight on the Cambrian coast, a lot of regular services were steam hauled until 1966. Double headed train were less common, but quite a number of Cambrian Coast express summer Saturday specials were double headed because of the number of passengers & carriages.

Apparently there also used to be occasional summer steam trips on a Sunday from Aberystwyth to Pwllheli, so although this was a fabulous sight, it was not actually as rare as one might have expected.  Halliday, the photographer, specialized in vintage train photographs in the 1950s, mainly black and white.

Produced by Judges, about whom more on an earlier post.

Vintage Postcards #16 – View over the jetty towards Penhelig

I couldn’t find out much about this tinted postcard because it is not listed in the Frith database.  However, it is the old 1885 jetty (the new one was installed in 1970) and retains the railway tracks that were used to move cargo to and from ships (there is more about the jetty and wharf in a previous post).  The colours aim to be realistic, but do not disguise that this was originally a black and white photograph.  The card is unused and I haven’t found a date for this postcard yet.

Thanks to Sierd Jan Tuinstra for the information that the ship moored up to the jetty is the 45ft Outward Bound boat Golden Valley (LH37), ordered by George Jarron of Port SetonShe was built by James Martin and Son, a Granton shipyard, launched in 1949 and registered in Aberystwyth.  Granton, at the mouth of the Firth of Forth, on the south bank at the far north of Edinburgh, was a major fishing base, and had two principal boat builders during the 1940s, of which James Martin and Son was one.  The company, originally specializing in joinery, until asked by the Admiralty to built a Motor Fishing Vessel for use during the Second World War.  Subsequently they built eleven wooden Motor Fishing Vessels (M.F.V.s) for the Admiralty between 1941 and 1945, designed initially for harbour and coastal work but ultimately intended to be converted to fishing boats after the war.  After the war, during which large numbers of fishing vessels had ben lost, the company continued to build fishing boats for the herring industry.  Golden Valley was one of the last vessels to be built by the company.  It was originally fitted with a 120 h.p. Crossley engine, but triplex chain breakages caused a series of gearbox problems. This was sorted when another vessel, Mizpah, was provided with a new engine and its old tooth and pinion gearbox was fitted to Golden Valley. (Information about Golden Valley sourced from the Granton Built Fishing Boat website). From accounts on the Alumni section of the Outward Bound website, Golden Valley seems to have been acquired by Outward Bound in the early 1950s.

There is information about the Frith Series postcards and the fascinating history of the company on my post about a previous vintage postcard at https://aberdoveylondoner.com/2019/12/01/vintage-postcards-9-dysynni-valley-and-bird-rock/.

Vintage Postcards #15: Five Points, Smugglers Cove, Frongoch

 

Five points in December 2019 on a very murky, rainy day, resulting in a soggy photographer and a damp camera. I’ll try for a better photo on a sunnier day!

This postcard shows the River Dyfi at Frongoch where it widens into the estuary, with the five small promontories known as Five Points.  The viewpoint is on the road from Machynlleth to Aberdovey just above the Frongoch boatyard, and just around a particularly nasty bend. In the postcard, there’s a lovely vehicle in the foreground, and the railway is ever-present.  The wall between the road and the modern boatyard at Smuggler’s Cove below doesn’t seem to have changed much since the postcard photograph was taken, but the foreshore in the first cove has expanded out into the estuary.  Dated 5th August 1950, the card was sent to an address in Greenford in Middlesex, and has an Aberdovey-Merioneth postmark.

Published by Valentine and Sons of Dundee in their “sepiatype” series, it is numbered W340.  The Jisc archives hub has this to say about Valentine’s:

The company Valentine & Sons was established in 1851 by Mr James Valentine (1814-1879), the son of Mr John Valentine, engineer of wood blocks for linen printing, Dundee. The firm began as early exponents of photography, became pioneers in the postcard industry and later developed the production of greetings cards, novelties, calendars and illustrated children’s books.

James Valentine began in business aged 17 as an engraver. He began to practice Daguerrotype photography, first as an amateur, as an aid to engraving. He was soon proficient and began to take views and portraits in c.1850. He went to Paris to train under M. Bulow, one of the most skilful photographers in that city. On his return to Dundee he set up a studio in the High Street. He received a commission from the Queen to photograph a set of 40 views of Highland scenery and in 1868 was appointed as the Royal Photographer.

James Valentine’s sons were both early to develop skills in photography and by 1879 they were in great demand, having grown into one of the largest establishments in the country. In 1897 the government allowed correspondence to be written on the reverse of a postcard. This coincided with Valentine’s success in collotype printing, a lithographic technique which mechanically reproduced images for printing as postcards. By the end of the century, Valentines had established the perfect method for cheap reproduction of postcards. They were also able to use their immense collection of topographical negatives to issue series after series of scenes from throughout Britain.

By the early 1900s they also had a growing trade in Christmas cards and children’s books and had begun to publish fancy cards. In 1908 they became the official postcard publishers for the international Franco-British exhibition at the White City, and began to publish exhibition cards which are noted for their high quality of design. By the time of the First World War they had become a world-wide name with office branches in Canada, South Africa, Australia, America and Norway. In the 1920s they expanded their trade in Christmas cards and calendars and then in greetings cards which forms the basis of their business today. In 1963 the company became a subsidiary of John Waddington Ltd.

It was during the 1950s that the postcard business began to go into decline, and Valentine’s focused on the more profitable greeting card side of their enterprise.

Vintage postcards #14 – Penhelig from a boat or Ynyslas

Penhelig, possibly 1923

Penhelig seen from Ynyslas in February 2019

It is almost peculiar how little has changed between these two dates, 1923 and 2019.  Immediately in front of the houses on the left the memorial park has been developed, a small shelter has been added, and there is now a sea wall in front of it, and the trees behind the houses seem to have grown and spread, but little else has changed.  The postcard was unsent.  It is another produced by “Gwilym Williams, Aberdovey” about whom I have been unable to find anything, but there is an additional piece of information on the picture side of the card – a series number:  88213 JV.  The initials JV usually stand for James Valentine, so perhaps Gwilym Williams occasionally worked as a local agent of Valentine’s.  According to the Valentine’s postcard dating page, this number falls in a series that date to 1923.