No Photoshop required.
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!
This was a very windy late afternoon in mid December 2019, and I have been messing around in my software to figure out how to eliminate the intense sound distortion that ruins the sound tracks of many of my videos. It is clear that I need a dead cat mic (charming name!) but it is impressive how well the software can compensate once the damage is done, leaving the gentle sounds of water on the seashore and the bright birdsong in tact.
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.
The first video shows a male pheasant preening in a burst of sunshine – a post-peanut mellow moment. Two male pheasants arrived today, some time after the females had arrived, eaten, sat for a while with their feathers puffed up, and left. It had finally stopped raining and at mid-day the garden was bathed briefly in a thin silvery sunshine, which lasted for about an hour and a half before the rain resumed. The familiar harsh loud squawk announced their arrival so I threw down some peanuts and went down into the village, leaving them to it. When I returned they were pottering around in the garden, and one of them was enjoying an industrious preen, the bright feathers given a thorough going over.
The second video shows two views of Pen Y Bryn from my garden, one clip from yesterday in the pouring rain and the second in the today’s brief reprieve when the sun came out before the rain returned. Both are shades of grey, but the main difference between the two scenes is the sound. In the first clip, even in the downpour Pen Y Bryn looks atmospheric but the sound of the rain is unrelenting. In the second, with light glinting off the water, peace and quiet has been restored.
I should perhaps apologize for the completely gratuitous scrolling text. I’ve been messing around with new video editing software, as my previous prog was at all not user-friendly and it had the antisocial habit of freezing solid. Many of the features in the new application are very gimmicky, with shades of PowerPoint, but the ability to add text in various different forms is useful. This is the fourth piece of video editing software that I have tried, so I am seriously hoping that this one will be a keeper.
Amongst all the recent postcards, this is one of my favourites, mainly because it is so relentlessly prosaic. Straying out of Aberdovey, but not too far, it’s a peaceful view of cattle in the Dysynni valley with Bird Rock unmistakeable in the background, seen from the west near the coast. Numbered 36502, and dating to 1895 (courtesy of the Francis Frith Collection website for the date) it is characteristic of Francis Frith photographs, offering a slightly unusual take on the usual subject matter. Unlike other contemporary views of scenery which focus on the romantic this shot is particularly evocotive of the the landscape as I have seen it so often, with Bird Rock looking rather intimidating, and the lugubrious cattle waiting patiently for whatever weather is about to emerge from the clouds. Cattle stand in water to cool themselves down on hot days (in some states in America where summer temperatures are usually high, cooling ponds are often provided) so although the sky looks rather overcast, it was probably a hot, sunny day. There is a real sense of timelessness about this photograph.
In a part of the Dysynni valley to further to the east (with Bird Rock this time to the west) and below Castell-y-Bere are fields along the river Dysynni that are still used for pasturing cattle, as well as sheep. There are some lovely walks along the Dysynni valley, which is well worth exploring.
The card was completely unused. I like the “Post Card” font, which has panache. I instantly liked the little saying at the top of the reverse side, below, “T.N.T. – Today, Not Tomorrow!” At first it amused me because it could have been written for me, as procrastionation is probably my worst sin, and I could often do with a bit of explosive to move me in the right direction :-). But when I looked into it, it turns out to be a wartime slogan introduced by British Minister of Production, Captain Oliver Lyttleton, during September 1942, the thrust of which was that there was a new urgency to the production of war supplies. It gives one pause for thought. What is interesting here is that, as above, the photograph is listed in the Francis Frith archive as dating to 1895, but it is clear that the early photograph was re-used later for post-1902 postcard production (see below) and in at least one of its more modern iterations carried a 1942 slogan.
Francis Frith is probably the best name, amongst non-specialists of early postcard production. There is a lot about Frith and his photography business on the Francis Frith Collection website, which is a going concern and preserves an archive of his work. It is a really fascinating story. Frith was born into a Quaker family in 1822 in Derbyshire. He built up a thriving grocery business in Liverpool, which he sold in the 1850s, making him financially independent, in today’s terms a multi-millionaire. A founder member of the Liverpool Photographic Society, only 14 years after the invention of photography, be began to pursue his hobby on a full-time basis, travelling to the Middle East for fourteen years between 1856 and 1860. I was very familiar with his Egyptian photographs, having a particular interest in this field, but the Francis Frith Collection website gives a real insight into the scope of Frith’s intersets and abilities. Marketed by Negretti and Zambra of London, he became rich on the sale of his images as prints and steroscopic views. After he married and settled down in England, he opened his company F. Frith and Co to “create accurate and unromantic photographs of as many cities, towns and villages of the British Isles as possible and sell copies of the photographs to the public, who were travelling in ever greater numbers and looking for souvenirs of their travels.” He eventually retired and left the company to his sons, dying in 1898. His sons built on their father’s legacy, and when in 1902 the Post Office agreed the design for the postcard, with a picture on one side and a divided plain side on the other for message and addresss, the Frith brothers jumped on the bandwagon and became one of the market leaders in postcard production and distribution in the first half of the 20th Century, using the extensive archive of existing photographs.
Digitization of the Frith collection, consisting of over 300,000 images, is ongoing on the other website, with a searchable archive, where 21 other views of Dysynni (and 105 of Aberdovey) can be found.
Not quite as vintage as postcard #1 and postcard #2, which were dated to 1910 and 1903 respectively, this view of Penhelig Beach has an Aberdovey Merioneth postmark dated 19th August 1962 and features two Queen Elizabeth II stamps (a blue 1 penny and a green 1 1/2 penny). Elizabeth had been on the throne for 10 years when this postcard was sent to Harborne in southwest Birmingham. The big carpark on the sea front and the modern developments at the top of Copper Hill Street, along Mynydd Isaf and Maes Newydd and related roads had not yet been built and the village must have had a very different character.
A view of Penhelig today taken from a very similar viewpoint:
Unlike the 1903 and 1910 postcards, this is immediately recognizable and familiar, and apart from the boats, which immediately indicate that this is not a modern photograph (I particularly like the one furthest from the camera), it looks much the same as it does today. Penhelig Terrace, immediately behind the beach, was built on the spoil-heap from the tunneling works for the railway in 1864, which was routed round the back of the village to prevent it impinging on tourism and ship-building activities.
A picture hanging in Aberdovey’s Literary Institute shows the same scene in 1837 before either the railway or Penhelig Terrace were built, with the Penhelig Arms visible at the far left. In this view the low and long Penhelig Lodge (about which I have posted) dominates the scene and looks out over the beach. It was probably still fishermen’s cottages at this time, although it had various roles afterwards, including a stint as an exlusive school for young ladies. Penhelig Lodge is now a row of three cottages on a busy bend where the railway crosses the road, hidden behind Penhelig Terrace and the railway, on the edge of Nantiesin car park and overlooked by Penhelig Station, but as a building it has lost none of its charm.
A photograph from Hugh M. Lewis’s book Aberdyfi, A Glimpse of the Past, below, shows Penhelig as it was just after the railway was established and just before the terrace was built in the mid-1860s, with a large vessel moored on a high tide in the days when the beach was a shipyard, with Penhelig Arms just behind it. In the above postcard Penhelig Arms is out of sight, a few houses to the left and across the road.
The row of houses behind the memorial park to the right of Penhelig Terrace on the main road through Aberdovey has changed dramatically since the 1860s photo in Hugh M. Lewis’s book, but not much since the 1962 postcard.
The postcard producer, Valentine’s (J. Valentine and Co.), opened in 1866 in Dundee, at first specializing in photographs of Scotland, and continued to make postcards for a century. According to the Jisc Archives Hub, “much of the collection contains views associated with the leisure market, subjects such as fishing were regarded as attractive, agriculture less so, and industry was rarely portrayed. The main features are stately homes, historic ruins, great open spaces, beaches, the grandeur and curiosity of nature and great engineering feats.” The company stopped producing postcards in 1967 because they failed to make the switch to colour printing for postcards soon enough to be competitive, and they had found that greeting cards were more lucrative anyway.
Like the postcard #1, which was a 1910 sepia photograph, this 1903 scene really throws one back to a previous era where the threat of being run over by one of the hundreds of cars that use the A493 estuary road simply didn’t exist. The mid-1850s Trefri Hall is again visible in the background, but this postcard gives a real sense of rural isolation. This sense of isolation is, however, quite misleading. An east-west turnpike was built following the Merioneth Turnpike Act of 1775, which ran from near Pennal through Cwm Maethlon (Happy Valley) towards Tywyn, and although it bypassed Aberdovey it was still an important link between the coast and the interior of mid Wales. Most importantly, the railway was established in 1864, connecting Tywyn, Aberdovey and Machynlleth with other parts of north Wales and England. The industrial revolution and the demand for raw materials such as copper, silver and lead, as well as the slate trade had made Aberdovey an important port and shipping was a major activity, both via river and sea, and the tourist industry was becoming increasingly important. By the turn of the century, Aberdovey had at least six places of worship, at least one pub, a literary institute and several hotels.
The stamp shows Edward VII who reigned from 1902-1910, and this particular shade of blue-green was issued between 1902 and 1904. The stamp is postmarked Stowmarket and is dated 9.30AM, June 26th 1903. Perhaps the purchaser bought it in Aberdovey and took it home to post.
The postcard was produced by Raphael Tuck and Sons, “fine art publishers to their majesties the King and Queen” in their “Art” series. Queen Victoria had granted them the Royal Warrant in 1883. According to the TuckDB website, Raphael Tuck was a Prussian who had trained as a graphic artist and started his picture frame and graphic design business with his wife Ernestine in Bishopsgate (London) in 1866. It became one of the world’s biggest postcard producers, all based on art works, but produced a number of other products as well, as shown on the 1901 advert below. Most of the postcards were printed in Germany up until the First World War, and this card is marked “Printed in Berlin.” The Aberdovey card, by artist Frederick William Hayes, was sold as one of a set of six Welsh scenic views, the others showing Cader Idris, Bala, Harlech, the Dolgellau Precipice Walk and Llyfnant Valley, Aberystwyth (all of which you can see here, on the TuckDB website). Later, the a postcard was issued showing the same painting in full, extremely bright colour.
The artist, Frederick William Hayes (1848-1918), was born on the Wirral, trained first as an architect and then as a painter in Liverpool and London before returning to Liverpool where he established a watercolour society. He was an Associate of the Royal College of Art. Hayes exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts between 1872 and 1891. He was a prolific painter, working in pencil, watercolour and oil. His paintings are usually very picturesque in theme, and he painted a lot of landscape and seascape scenes in Wales and Scotland.
Some snapshots of Aberdovey this afternoon. It was a particularly beautiful day, and although I was up to my ears in stuff I really ought to be getting on with this morning, I wanted to take some particular shots to match up with my vintage postcards so I made my escape and went down to the seafront. At this time of year it’s mad to ignore good weather when it’s available. I was lucky to find that the light was truly remarkable.
I was looking on eBay for something completely unrelated and noticed a small job-lot of vintage sepia and black-and-white postcards of Aberdovey for a bargain price, so I bought them. It is fascinating to see past views of the village. Some of the buildings look so crisp and fresh and it is truly interesting on the one hand to see the changes and, on the other, to be surprised at how much remains the same. The subject matters that were offered by the postcard companies, and which people chose to buy, are often quite different from those that one can buy in the village today. It feels like invading the privacy of past visitors to read the messages that they wrote to friends and family, but it is also a rather nice way of connecting with the past. Separately, I bought a page from a book dating to 1895, which is a real treasure. I thought that others might be interested in this little haul, so as I scan them I’ll post them here. You can click on the images to see a bigger version.
The picture on the card shows Trefri, the area just outside Aberdovey which includes the mid 19th Century Trefri Hall right on the edge of the estuary with its own island, currently painted English-mustard yellow. I don’t know the house on the hill, but I am sure that other residents will recognize it. If it still stands, it is no longer in splendid isolation. Aberdovey has spread both out and up. The 1864 railway is clearly visible and telegraph polls indicate that Aberdovey had been connected to the rest of Britain in more ways than one. Today one wouldn’t take one’s life in one’s hands by walking down the middle of that stretch of road, and it is difficult to visualize an Aberdovey where bicycles were more numerous than cars.
The postmark says that the postcard was sent from Pennal on May 22nd 1910, and the address indicates that it was going to Birmingham, then as now the main source of tourists for the mid-Welsh coast. The green half penny stamp, which was issued between 1902 and 1910, shows Edward VII, who died on 6th May 1910, and was succeeded by George V.