Old photos and their history

Postcard to Miss Pollard, Coventry, from Blackpool

Three women and a young girl are sitting down on a bench. The building behind looks like a cafe or hotel. In the window, we can see the reflection of a man wearing a homburg hat – perhaps the photographer. Between the photographer and the female group are wall railings.

The postcard back gives clues as to who is in the photo. It says:

“20 lime St Blackpool Having good time Mabel Grundy”

It’s addressed to a Miss Pollard. She lived at 6 Stephen Street in Coventry.

Stephen Street

The only two occupants I can find are Sydney and Clara Pollard. Both lived at 6 Stephen Street during the 1911 census.

Sydney Pollard (b1882) worked as a mail carrier for the General Post Office. He’d been born in Coventry.

Many of his family were involved in paper and printing. His dad, Samuel Pollard (b1845) had been a painter and paper hanger. His sister folded pamphlets (previously a bookbinders assistant) and a brother was a lithograph printer.

In 1901, he lived with his widowed mother, Emma Pollard (b1846), at 21 Stephen Street. His father had died in 1894. By this time he’d already started working at the Post Office.

Clara Lillian Ward (b1883) married Sydney in 1907. She’d been born in Wolstan, Warwickshire – a village on the outskirts of Coventry. Her parents were Joseph Ward (b1836, blacksmith) and Mabel Ward (b1843).

Clara and Sydney may have met in Coventry. During 1901, Clara worked in the centre of Coventry as a domestic servant for Thomas F.D. Lloyd’s family. Thomas Lloyd was a photographer and fancy dealer, working from home. The Lloyd family lived at 26 Earl Street.

In 1911, Emma had moved closer to her son. She now resided at 7 Stephen Street. Accompanying her were Sydney’s sister, now listed as a book folder, and one of Sydney’s brothers who worked as a pork butcher.

Sydney’s mother died in 1914.

In 1936, Sydney died, leaving Clara £40. In the 1939 Census, Clara lived alone at Stephen Street. She’s listed as providing first aid as part of the ARP’s (Air Raid Precautions) emergency medical services. Clara passed on in 1951, outliving her husband by fifteen years.

Miss Pollard?

There is a bit of a mystery as to who the letter is addressed to. The word “Miss” has a definite “i”. The initials don’t seem to correspond to Clara’s. Sydney and Clara didn’t have any children. So who is Miss Pollard?

The “Miss” could have been a mistake – written in a hurry. It may have been sent to Clara before her marriage. Or perhaps it was posted to a relative of Sydney’s.

Mabel Grundy

I don’t know who Mabel Grundy was. She may have been a friend or relative from Coventry. Blackpool had boomed as a tourist destination with the arrival of the railways and electricity in the 19th Century. Mabel and those with her could have been on holiday. Whoever she was, we can assume Mabel is one of those in the photo.

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Joseph Noble Perks, Cabinet Card of a Family, Swadlincote

A family portrait cabinet card embossed with “J Perks, Swadlincote” in gold lettering. The clothing and hairstyles suggest the early Edwardian era. Two adults, we can assume are the parents, pose with two girls and a boy. A studio backdrop of an opulent indoor scene lies behind them.

Joseph Noble Perks

Joseph was born in 1877 in the village of Woodville, Swadlincote. He was born to John and Annie Perks. Woodville is currently part of South Derbyshire but at the time had been within the boundaries of Burton-on-Trent and Staffordshire.


At 3 years old, Joseph lived with his parents and siblings at 194 Burton Road in Overseal, Swadlincote. He had an older brother and younger sister, Benjamin and Annie. His dad was a pipeworks engineer.


Swadlincote had been the site of pipe yards. They made clay pipes that were sold throughout the world. This wide commercial reach was enabled by Swadlincote’s connection to the Victorian and Edwardian railway.

Joseph’s family appear to have moved from Yorkshire so his dad could work at the pipeworks.

1901 census

At 23, Joseph still lived with his parents, though they moved to 219 Occupation Lane in Woodville, Swadlincote. He now had two sisters, Annie and Nellie, and a new brother called Charles. His eldest brother Benjamin had moved out. Nellie was a school teacher and Charles, at the age of 14, was an apprentice fitter.

Joseph was now listed as a photographer


Joseph married Evelyn Grace Warren in 1909. She was born in 1884 in Newhall. The town of Newhall is also part of Swadlincote.

In 1901, Evelyn lived with her parents and two brothers at 186 High Street, Newhall, Swadlincote. She worked as a dressmaker.

1911 census

By 1911, Joseph – now 33 – had settled down with Evelyn at 26 Church Street, Church Gresley, Swadlincote. He worked from home, self-employed as a photographer and picture frame maker.

RAF and knitting

There is a record of Joseph being a member of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1918. At the same time, Evelyn served in the Swadlincote division of the British Red Cross. Her duties included knitting, needlework, war hospital supplies, and home worker.

1939 census

The last available census has Evelyn and Joseph living at 68 James Street, Midway, Swadlincote. They have constantly moved during their lives, though they cannot yet escape the gravitational pull of Swadlincote. Joseph was still a photographer. They lived with their two grown-up children, Noel Perks (certificated assistant teacher) and Iris Perks (shorthand typist). Noel was an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) warden who either was a trainee or trained others in first aid. Joseph also had ARP duties.

If you would like to add to the story of the Perks family then please add your comments below or contact me directly.




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