Since starting ‘Navigating Cyril’ I’ve become fascinated by early 20th C postcards of the town in which so many of my family lived. I’m fortunate in that Matlock Bath had long been a popular inland resort and so has been generously served by souvenir postcards from the mid-Victorian period onwards.

For me the postcards have a life beyond being simply an accessible pictorial record, they provoke associations and recovered memories, they’re about family and a means by which I’m slowly making ‘re-connections’.

Each month I scour e-bay and the like, to see what new offerings are available. i don’t spend silly amounts of money on any single card, and few pounds at most, and the criteria for selecting one postcard over another are pretty wide-ranging

  • Does the image show family houses, ie. houses occupied by the Lill’s, Allen’s or Edmond’s?
  • Does the image tell a story? Or add to a story already known?
  • Is the image ‘odd’? etc. etc.

I find it moving to hold the postcards, to have in an album something that was around at the turn of the 20th Century. I enjoy reading the handwritten and wonderfully banal comments people sent to loved ones, or weaving a story around the simplest of texts ‘Having a grand time Lizzie’.

Most of all though the postcards act as a window or conduit, a means of accessing a period long gone. Postcards are paused, poised snapshots; freeze-framing a particular moment which is then replicated a thousand-fold, to become a momentary part of someone’s life. Many of the postcards are simply views, of the ‘We Were Here’ variety, on one level they’re a (fascinating) record of the town, of particular buildings; but for the purchaser they must have had (at the moment of purchase) other associations, perhaps they were part of numberless human dramas?

If only they could talk, the stories they might tell…

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