Unidentified Seaside Family (The Early 1930s)


Figure 1.-- The post card shows a lady in a cloche hat and her children. The curious aspect of this photograph is how the children were dressed. The boy looks like he is headed to school. His sister seems more dressed for the beach.

We at first thought that the nane of this family was Jackson because the back of the photograph w sramped,'Jackson Faces'. A reader tells us that thhis was the imprint of a street photography busines which took portraits along several beachfronts, in this case Lowestoft. We do know that the the photograph was taken in Lowestoft which is a channel coast port in Suffolk. At the time it was a fishing port of some importance, but also had popular beaches and a pier. The post card shows a lady in a cloche hat and her children. The curious aspect of this photograph is how the children were dressed. The boy looks like he is headed to school. His sister seems more dressed for the beach. We are not sure where dad is. Perhaps he took the photograph.

Jackson Faces

A reader wrote when we first archived this page,"I do wonder if this was a professional shot - maybe a bit adventurous for the period - taken outside to falsely 'capture' a typical family moment? You never know. I know if that were me I would sooner have something taken of life rather than a stuffy studio shot, but again that is being subjective and applying the mindset of someone 70 years on." And we agree that this is markedly better thn a standard snap shot. A reader answers our question about 'Jackson Faces'. He writes, "On your web page you mention a photograph with Jackson’s Faces written on the back. It is likely that the photograph was taken by a photographer who was active between the World Wars trading as Jackson’s Faces. Jackson’s Faces had premises in Great Yarmouth, Gorleston-on-Sea and Felixstowe. They were active in Lowestoft for a few summer seasons. I suspect the photo you have is a walking photograph or “walkie” Jackson’s took loads of this type of photograph of people promenading. They also did charabanc and boat trip photos." They were also in Weston-Super-Mare and Porthcawl.

Seaside Photographers

Our reader has prepared a usefullist of seaside photograohers. He tells us,"I am hoping to compile a web site about British seaside photographers with examples of various photographers. I am focusing on the work of commercial seaside photographers. Your photo is a commercial seaside print taken for possible sale to the subjects, it’s very unlikely the subjects knew the photographer. My Jackson’s Faces page at present is wrong because of incorrect information based on someone else’s research. I expect you know all about this problem." [Godfrey]

The Family

We do not know the name of the family pictured here. The photograph show what looks to be a great mum and two children who look to be about 5 and 8 years old, hard to tell for sure. We are not sure where dad is. Perhaps he took the photograph. This photograph, however, is technically very beautifully posed. Much better than normally achived in the snapshots of an average dad. It is a "tour de force" capturing the moment of the mom and kids. Lowestoft with it beaches no doubt had a number of photographers taking photographs of the tourists. We do not in fact know if the family is from Lowestoft or tourists. Nor do we know if that might be their house in the background. Note, however, there seems to be a plasard (out of focus) that a restaurant might put out. The house may also be a bed and breakfast establishment where modest income familes might stay. The clothes here to us suggest a comfortable, but modest income family, although the boy may be enrolled in a private school.

Chronology

The poscard here is not dated. We have no way of knowing for sure when the photograph was taken. The boy's scgool clothes could be any time from the 1920s through the 50s. The mother's clothes seem to date it before World War II. We would giess about 1930-35.

Lowestoft

The photographer wrote 'Lowestoft' on the back of the portrait here. We thus thought that the the photograph was taken in Lowestoft which is a North Sea coast port in Suffolk which is part of East Anglia. At the time it was a fishing port of some importance, but also had a pier and popular beaches. The center of the tourist trade was Claremont Pier built in 1903. It is Lowestoft’s principal pier. It served the local community and touriss staying in local hotels as well as steamers coming from London. There would have been all kinds of entertaiment activities on the pier for these children, but here they are off the beach. The beaches are quite different than the Channel beaches. They are sandy and gently slopeing, ideal for children playing in the sand. And the water as at all North Sea beaches is really cold--even in the Summer. A British reader writes, "We went to the North Sea coast from Yorkshire (to Scarborough) and the North Sea is known for being freezing unlike the channel resorts on the South Coast. It is interesting that they ran steamers to Lowestoft from London!. I didn't know that before." A World War I naval battle was fought off Lowestoft. A few years after this photograph was taken, World War II broke out and the pier was taken over by the Army. After the War the Army kept it for several years and was then largely abandoned. Ut has since been partially restored. The local authorities explain the state in 2005, "Unfortunately, further damage over the years has left the pier somewhat the worse for wear. Although much has been done to restore the shoreward end, the pier head is very run-down and remains closed to the public. Still, there’s a fair bit of entertainment to be had on what’s left of it, with an amusement arcade, take-away food and all the rest of it. Special mention should go to Captain Nemo’s Fish & Chips. Why not get a Blue Raspberry Slush Puppy to go with that battered huss?"

Gorleston-on-Sea

We now know that the portrait here was taken near Lowestoft, but not in the port. A readertells us, "It is not taken in Lowestoft but in Gorleston-on-Sea a bit further north from here in Lowestoft. Gorleston-on-Sea is part of Great Yarmouth. GY is a stereotypical British seaside resort catering for the masses. Gorleston is its genteel neighbour. At the time your photograph was taken Gorleston was a resort that would appeal to the middle classes where GY was more for the working classes. it is taken on Marine Parade (Lower) in Gorleston-on-Sea. If you Google Beach Road Gorleston this will bring up the map. Place the street view man on the junction of Beach Road and Lower Esplanade, you should see the houses in the background of your photo now the Embassy Chinese Take-Away and Restaurant (Gorleston is no longer a genteel resort appealing to the middle classes) turn through 180 degrees and head towards the seafront shops. The first shop is number 18 and was Jackson’s Faces emporium. It’s very likely the photograph was taken speculatively and they would have been given a numbered ticket to enable the subjects to claim and buy the photo from number 18 later that day or on the next day. Quite how Lowestoft has become associated with your photo is a mystery but some Jackson’s cards of this time do have Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and Lowestoft as contact information on them. I believe Jackson’s were not trading in Lowestoft for very long." [Godfrey]

Time

A reader wtites, "I guess that it is in June and the boy is coming back from school he is still attending. By the shadows on the ground, it is late in the afternoon. but it is enough warm to rest an hour or two along the beach for playing in sand. All the family is in a hurry as if some friends are waiting on the beach. A nice party in perspective." HBC has a little different take on this. We believe that it is probably July or August and the boy is on his school vacation. He may not have had a suit and just wore his school clothes wether he was at school or not. This sounds strange to day, but was very common at the time. A British reader writes for example, "I too have a few images of boys around this time at coastal resorts dressed in the archetypal school uniform."

Clothing

The post card shows a lady in a cloche hat and her children. Mother's hat and dress is typical of 1930-35 fashion with her "chapeau-cloche". The curious aspect of this photograph is how the children were dressed. They are outfitted quite differently. The boy looks like he is headed to school. He has a school cap (note the badge), a double-breasted jacket, shirt with a tie, flannel short trousers, turn-over-top socks, and school sandals. Standard clothing for a boy at the time. A HBC reader comments on his tie, "The horizontally-barred school ties like he is wearing were more old fashioned to us in the 1960s (though some boys still had them - they may have been their Father's from when they were at school!). The newer ties (which most wore) had diagonal stripes. I think that you can see both types in the Nativity Play School photo I sent once." His socks do not have the school colours on the tops - again that probably came in more later when weaving them in through mass production became cheaper. Another reader writes, "The sandals here look just like the ones we wore 30 years later! - excepting his do not have patterns cut into the front by the look of it." Another reader comments on the clothes, "The boy is dressed in his school uniform that probably doubled up as his Sunday best clothes. The cloche hat of the lady in the photo is typical of the 1930s period. I have loads of walkie photos of ladies in cloche hats." [Godfrey] We are not sure what kind of school he attended. School caps were common at the time, but the badge I thinks suggests a provate prep school. But note he does not have any books or a satchel. Thus we do not think he is headed to school. He is much more formally dressed than his sister. She is wearing a summer three-deck frilly frock. Although her brother wears kneesocks, she has bare legs. She also wears sandals, although not school sandals. I supose some girls might have gone to school dressed like that, but I doubt if a mother would have dressed one child formally and another informlly for school. The group is surely headed for the beach. Can you imagine dressing like the boy here is for the beach. He even is wearing his tie! We have seen many images of British boys wearing school caps and blazers to the beach. This boy is we think wearing his schoolwear on his summer vacation. The clincher here is mum.

School

We are fairly sure that the boy here is on his summer vacation from school, even though he is wearing his school uniform. One thing we are unsure about is what kind of school he attended. These peaked school caps were very common in the 1930s. This one looks like a more expensive type and it has a school badge. We believe his school may be a private prep school. An English reader writes, "I couldn't say for sure if he is a prep school boy or not. My ideas of the 1930s in England come as much from HBC as any where! My speciality is the 1960s and 70s when I was growing up and what I have observed since. At a guess I would say that they are more a middle class family so he may attend a prep school. Also school uniforms were not so universal then were they? It was only postwar and then very much the 1960s as mass produced clothes were cheaper and there was no rationing that most state primary schools adopted this sort of uniform I think. (we had caps even when I started but it is more a hallmark of prep schools I think although many boys did wear caps but not necessarily witht he school badge on). Anyway to me it looks like a suit he is wearing to me - which definately is a prep school thing of back then because other boys might wear a blazer but with flannel shorts to school and have a suit for "best" out of school. He does not have a "blazer" badge so it is more a suit than blazer and shorts I think." Areader writes, "That kind of smart uniform would suggest some kind of private school to me. However, the fact his sister is dressed far more downmarket, with the mother somewhere in the middle, is a bit of an issue. Likewise the fact that by simple use of psychology, would a well to do family really have a son going to the beach on holiday in school uniform? It sounds like the kind of thing a family with less money would do to try to impress! Looking afresh at the photo, his blazer doesn't appear to the be sharpest, and his shoes have definitely seen better days."

Beach Equipment

Also note the spade which a girl would not have taken to school. This of course is standard beach equipment. Note the bucket she is carrying--another key item for playing in the sand. These sort of seaside holidays which many English families used to have are sometimes known as "bucket and spade holidays". Now adays many British families take off for Spain and warm water. The bucket had many uses, but a key tool needed to build sand castles. We are not sure, however, what is in the bucket. A British reader provides some insights. "There were also short handled plastic spades that we carried in buckets, but probably not in the 1930s. There were also long handled ones like the one in the picture. The ones we had in the 1960s were metal fixed to a wooden handle and often broke if you hit a stone in the sand and then you had to use just the end part. The one here looks all wood. We had all sorts of little spades and buckets at home because we often forgot to pack them when we went away and Mum bought us new one - or my Grandfather did if we were in Yorkshire and he decided to take us off to the seaside. Mum always found a use for then back at home - mainly for storage. My elder brother used to keep his conkers in one bucket under his bed. Once when the water was turned off when they were digging up the road (which was interesting in itself because it revealed the old tramtracks which had been tarmacked over) we had tp feth water. My little brother took one of them to a standpipe that had been set up while me and my older brother had "proper" big buckets. Mum sent us up and down the street with the buckets. She wanted as much water in the house as possible and we used every bucket and bowl she could find and so did everyone else in the area.The water was only off for a few hours but Mum wanted to make sure that we couldn't get out of having a bath - and of course she had to have her cups of tea without which (along with many Mums) she could not have survived! The bucket in the photograph here seems to contain a blow up rubber ring used for swimming in the sea (for those who cant yet swim!) because I think that I can make out the valve. Then again they are not carrying bathing costumes ot towels so it could be a plastic mac which was a staple of going to the seaside even in Summer because of showers and it also gave Mum something to sit on while the children played in the sand."

Scarborough

Our reader tells us on his experiences a little further north along the Yorkshire coast. "We often played on the beach but were not allowed in the sea due to it being too cold (even though the weather seemed warm the North Sea itself could be freezing as I said). That annoyed me once I became an avid swimmer - but I could usually wander off from making sandcastles and burying my brother up to his neck in sand and find some rockpools which were another great thing about the Yorkshire coast and different from those on the channel down South. I could tell you more. The clothing aspect was that my pockets would be full of shells and even little crabs when I returned so I needed to wear shorts with pockets and Mum had to empty them out as usual before we got back into my Grandfather's car. For a real shellfinding expedition or if Mum had made us take off our shorts to keep them reasonable while playing on the beach (we never took our oldest playclothes up to Yorkshire because Gran would not approve of them even for a trip to the seaside). I would steal my litttle brothers bucket and come back with it full of all sorts. Other boys had little fishing nets on canes and you could "fish" in the rockpools. I still have a fossil found at Scarborough way back in the 1960s!"

Sources

Godfrey, Paul. E-mail message, June 1 and 5, 2012.








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Created: 8:28 PM 12/22/2005
Last updated: 9:30 PM 6/6/2012