Monthly Archives: September 2016

Promenade Postcards: seaside snaps from the 1920s

Oh I do like to stroll along the prom, prom, prom

Dig into your collection of old family photos and you’ll probably unearth a few seaside promenade postcards – pictures taken ‘on spec’ by an entrepreneurial photographer who had installed himself in a prime position near the sea front. He’d snap all of the passers-by, hastily scratch a code number on the negative, and hopefully some of the punters would drop by the following day to buy their printed postcards.

These two examples, discovered in among our bundles of family photos, take us back to the 1920s. The locations and dates haven’t been jotted down on the back, so I’m left to speculate about the exact details. In any case, they evoke a sense of Edwardian dapperness.


Len and Alice Collis and their daughter Mona stride towards us around 1924-5. Alice in her dropped-waist dress, with dangling pendant and cloche hat, be-suited Len sporting a neat moustache, and young Mona neat in striped skirt and blazer. Only two passing young women detract from the family group. A couple of years later, possibly in Lowestoft, we see (below) Eric Barker, cane in hand, taking in the fresh sea air with his first sweetheart, Edith Ward. Everyday examples, nothing especially remarkable about them, yet they capture joyfully innocent holiday strolls.

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Trading Stories, Working Lives: Thomas Norman, elastic web weaver

We continue our series of occupational histories with a look at the long career of Thomas Norman, an elastic web weaver at Luke Turner & Co.

As family historians, it can be frustrating not to know where our ancestors worked. We uncover census returns and certificates listing their occupation as a framework knitter or a boot clicker, but which factory were they at? Workplace records rarely survive. A few years ago I had the good fortune to solve one such mystery in my own family, when a distant relative – Mike Ratcliff – sent me a newspaper snippet recording the retirement of our shared ancestor, Thomas Norman.


It’s 1938 and Thomas is retiring after 68 years’ service with elastic web weavers Luke Turner & Co. Dapper and surprisingly sprightly at 82, he “can still keep pace with the average weaver” according to his boss. It’s a remarkable achievement – from loom hand to pensioner with just one firm – and I’m keen to find out more.

This article looks at the development of elastic web – used to make braids, cords, garters, corsetry, bandages, drapery, and umbrellas – and takes a walk through Turner’s factory on Henshaw Street. Click to download: Thomas Norman, elastic web weaver

You might also like to take a look at the other articles in our Trading Stories, Working Lives series:

John W Barker & Son, painters and decorators

Mary Ann Norman, Victorian laundress of Paradise Place

John Collins, Victorian fishmonger and game dealer

John and George Firn, monumental masons

Polkey boatmen of Loughborough

The Harrisons: gardeners, nurserymen and seeds merchants

George Robinson, Victorian letter carrier