Sunday, 27 November 2016

In Piccadilly before the last tram ran

Now this is another of those how to date a picture stories where either dear reader you sit back in awed wonder at my detective skills or just mutter tedious big head and move to the bottom of the page for the answer. 

So I shall begin with the working out.

It could be anytime in the year but no later than spring  judging by the number of people in overcoats.

And the flowers are out in the gardens to our left and the whole place seems bathed in that sharp sunlight which opens everything up but does little to warm the city.

I guess it might be sometime in the 1930's into the 40's.

In the absence of any wartime hints I think we are in the years of peace before 1939 or in those last four years before the last of our trams ran in 1949.

And it must be after 1932 when that great slab of a white building with its radio mast was opened.

This was the Rylands Building which back in the 1930s was the largest wholesale textile warehouse in the city.

At this point I have to confess that I had to rewrite the post in the light of a very helpful set of comments from Jane Campbell who is the research cataloguer and database administrator for the Photographic Collections held at the University of St Andrews, which I trust dear reader will make you ponder on the lengths I will go for a good story.

St Andrews has an extensive collection of postcards produced by Valentine and Sons of Dundee and our picture was one of theirs, so as you do I contacted them and Jane kindly replied with a possible date. But before I reveal that I should point out that there are a few obstacles in the way.  As Jane says,

"with Valentine care needs to be taken when using the registration date for dating their images – these registration dates refer to when the title was written into the register and was not necessarily when the photograph/view was taken.  

They sometimes would replace the original image with a newer photograph (updating the scene but using the same title) and in the earliest numbers the photograph could have been taken sometime (even years) earlier than the registration date.  As for the actual date of the postcard that you hold that would depend on when it was printed.

It is an interesting photograph not least because most in the collection date to a time before the 1920's but as ever the place is busy.

I especially like the glass and iron shelters which run down in front of the statutes.

And that reminds me that sometime in 1970 someone had painted a set of foot prints leading from Queen Victoria’s statute to the public lavatories.

I suspect she would not have been amused.

I guess there will not be that many who remember this view of Piccadilly and the northern section of the gardens.

Picture; from the collection of Alan Brown

And for those who want to follow up on Valentine & Son, the link to the University is Valentine Collections available via our new website at

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