Cromford Wharf, Cromford Derbyshire in the first decade of the 20th Century…
The Friends of Cromford Canal recently opening a small shop at the wharf building at Cromford to promote their work. I was given permission to take a picture of one of the photos on show. Although this not a very good reproduction of the photo it shows John Allen, my great, great grandfather (second from right) standing outside the building at the entrance to the wharf. the gentleman with his hat in his hand, on the right hand side of the photos, leans on a fence protecting the feeder stream for the canal. All very straightforward, until you look at a recent photo of the same building…
The 1900s photo above was taken in front of the window closest to the canal intake and next to the fence, however, the door and window beyond it, before the wharf gates, seem to have mysteriously swapped positions!

‘Place’ is fluid. The bricks and mortar of buildings may seem solid enough, but it’s all a front. Even seemingly solid buildings surreptitiously change over time and their presence only ever tells you part of the story of place. They may be a tangible, tactile asset, a representation of the thickness of a place, but that thickness is accreted by layers of both sensory stimulus (what we see, hear, smell, touch & taste now) and a sedimentation of personal memory and experience.

‘Place’ is slippery, affected by echoes, light, mood, weather, company or time, place is in  constant flux, is being made then unmade by the subconscious swirl of ordinary effects (emotions, habits, memories, dispositions) that shape the performance of our everyday lives.

‘Place’ prompts reading after reading of the totality of our thoughts, memories or experience. Those (re)readings are fluid and may tell another story tomorrow. Here, for example, are a few free-associating thoughts prompted by my looking at the images above.

Old John Allen, Grannie Allen, half crowns, spats; a faded photo of a wedding in Matlock Bath; a teenage schoolboy cross-country running; frogs; steam rallies; coal lorries; more frogs; huge and ominous fish; ghost stories – the ‘man with the lamp’; sleeping in a battered Renault 4 with sky blue wings and a red-orange bonnet as sheep gather and shove the car…

Thoughts talking to each other, telling tall-tales to a point where its no longer clear where fact ends and fiction begins or vice versa. Wonderful ‘place’.


[The Featured Image is a painting ‘Cromford Coal Wharf’ by Simon Waller. It’s reproduced in a set of cards published in support of the Friends of Cromford Canal]

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