Category Archives: Snapshot

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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Snapshot: Outside the Admiral Nelson (1911)

Admiral Nelson 1911It’s spring 1911 and five year-old Edna Collis wears a straw hat and an inquisitive stare. She stands with her grandparents, Martin and Elizabeth Collis in the doorway of their pub, a few footsteps from Leicester’s central Clock Tower.

Business at the Admiral Nelson is prospering and they’re all in their Sunday best – Martin in a bowler hat, wing collar and smart overcoat; Elizabeth in her decorated black bonnet, with an ostentatious fur. After a tearful tantrum, their youngest granddaughter Mabel finally stands still for the photographer, bribed with the treat of holding her grandmother’s fur muffler.

The window billboards reveal that ‘Milly’s Mother’ and ‘When Knights Were Bold’ are playing at the Opera House, and ‘Olga’s Oath’ at the Pavilion Theatre. Two circular Dewar’s Whisky signs over the door are the only sniff of alcohol, yet this stretch of Humberstone Gate is packed with pubs and inns –the Plough, Craven Arms Hotel, Bell Hotel, and Stag and Pheasant are a few footsteps away. On weekdays the pavements here are crowded with pedestrians and every now and then an electric crimson-and-cream tram rattles by, heading out along the Humberstone Road.

Humberstone Gate postcard

Take a look at other examples of ‘Snapshot’ articles and suggestions for writing one yourself.