Taking a photo these days is so easy, most of us have a phone in our pocket that we can whip out and snap a moment as we see it happening. We take this ease for granted knowing that anything we want to capture will probably be possible. Even 20 years ago, before smartphones, it wasn’t that easy. Imagine what it must have been like in the early 20th century where you needed a camera, film, a certain amount of knowledge about how to make the camera work, a tiny viewfinder to see your subject and no way of checking if your photo was going to work…until you had had the film processed at the chemist!

This knowledge makes me appreciate the photographic collections we have at Tullie House all the more. We hold collections from both amateur and professional photographers, and these give us a real insight into the progress of photography throughout the 20th Century, but also their images reveal so much about the developments, small and large of Carlisle and district over this period.

In this one of two blog posts giving an overview of the collection, I’ve included a selection of these images from the earliest until 1930s for you to enjoy and give a sense of this change. In some cases, we know very little about these images and we’d love to know more. If you have any thoughts or comments, we’d be glad to hear from you, our email address is included below.

Irish Gate, 1897

A resplendent Irish Gate has been decorated for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The Irish gate stood at the meeting point of West Walls and Annetwell Street. The gate itself had been demolished in around 1811. Now the Millenium bridge stands at the site. This is one of the earliest printed photographs we have in the collection. My thought is that this is not a posed photograph, just the site of someone taking a photo was sufficiently unusual to get everyone’s attention!

Decorating the Town Hall for Relief of Mafeking, 1900

News of the relief of Mafeking (now Mafikeng), an obscure cattle town in north central South Africa, produced one of the greatest outbursts of rejoicing in British history, and now is largely forgotten due to the unprecedented events that were to follow 14 years later.

It gave the world a new verb, maffick: to celebrate excessively. The relief ended a 217-day siege of a British garrison and civilians in the Anglo-Boer war. When word reached London the day after, October 18 1900, a witness report said: "White-haired old ladies were to be seen carrying large union jacks in each hand. Young women had colours pinned across from shoulder to shoulder.


Rising Sun Inn, about 1900:

Rising Sun Inn, Wine and Spirit Merchant, 7 and 9 Scotch Street opened in the late 1800s. This pub and shop continued to trade until the introduction of the State Management Scheme less than 20 years later. The scheme saw all of the city’s pubs taken into state control, or simply closed altogether (as in this case).

Fancy Dress Roller Skating Festival, 1910:

A group shot showing the Fancy Dress Roller Skating Festival, held at The Sands in 1910. Seemingly dressed as notable characters from the day, it was attended by prominent designer Paul Greville Hudson whose work decorated the tins made by Hudson Scott. Hudson can be seen second right wearing the Haley’s Comet costume. We have this image as it appears in Hudson’s scrap books that feature cuttings and images of all kinds of events and make for a fascinating alternative history of Carlisle!

Staff of Carlisle Gaol, 1912

Here a group of 21 staff (and dog) pose for a group portrait.  Male and female wardens are present alongside the Gaols chaplains, managers and their mascot. The prison officer standing to the far right in the middle row has been decorated for service in the Boer War of 1899-1902. The new county gaol (the Citadel) was built 1827, and it continued in use until 1927. At the heart of the old gaol quarters is the condemned prisoner cell, where prisoners sentenced to be executed spent their final night. From the cell the prisoner was marched up a set of steps inside the Citadel to the gallows set up on the roof, and there they would be publicly hanged, watched by a crowd gathered below. A public spectacle carried out until March 1862.

1972.11.1: Charabanc to Blackpool, 1920s

Evocative image of day-trippers in their charabanc bus for a day trip (?) to Blackpool. A curious handwritten written note on reverse notes: “The scene overleaf shows a party of penshioners [sic] from Stapleton Church (near Carlisle) setting off on an expedition to Blackpool more than 45 years ago. The fare on the windscreen seems to have been 4/-. It might interest your readers if you publish it on your 'Snap Happy' page”. I wonder how long it would have taken to get from Carlisle to Blackpool, and in what comfort, on this type of transport?

Hudson Scott Cricket Match at Rickerby Park, 1920s.

Hudson Scott (later known as Metal Box) were a world-leading manufacturer of tin boxes based in Carlisle. The firm held regular social events for its workers, as staff welfare was a high priority for its Quaker owner. Shows us that the current ‘wellbeing’ agenda is not a new one.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief look at our photographic collections, if you’ve liked what you’ve seen and would like a copy for yourself, it’s worth noting that many of our images are available as prints, just get in touch with us at images@tulliehouse.org

Also, keep a look out for the second blog, looking at photographs from the 1970s and 1980s.