The Past in Old Photos

by David Murray on 18 February 2009

in Cumbria, History, Lake District General, Northern England, Photographs, Towns

Recently (early 2009) I travelled up to the Lake District in the north of England to visit an elderly maiden aunt.  I say, “elderly,” but that’s not really an adequate expression.  Approaching a hundred and two years old she still has a lively interest in the present-day doings of her large brood of nephews and nieces, and the even larger numbers of great- and great-greats as well.  But also she thinks a lot about the past.

Having been born in 1907 there’s a lot of past for her to think about, and her memory is still amazingly intact.  Old photographs fascinate her, and this made me think of how important it is to record in writing for future generations something about those people on the sepia tinted pictures of yesteryear before no-one any longer has a clue who they were.

Memories, of course, often involve places as well as people. In family collections it is often the snaps of people rather than places that have survived. Photos of fondly remembered places as they were many years ago are often limited to a few creased old postcards. Occasionally a treasure hoard of old photographs is discovered and what memories they bring flooding back as they appear in the local newspaper.

The English Lake District for a century and a half has been one of the most photographed areas of Britain.  How good it is to know that many photographs – of lakes, rivers, towns, villages and individual buildings – have survived and are available to massage the memories of generations of lovers of Lakeland.

Holidays past, childhood homes, honeymoons among the mountains, visits to grandparents, sunny afternoons rowing on Derwentwater, the “steamers” on Windermere, paddling in the Rothay and scrambles up Scafell; all these and more come back to life through an old photo on the wall.

Increasingly, as photos of distant places long ago become conveniently traceable over the Internet, people living even thousands of miles across the world’s oceans can find and acquire beautifully printed copies of these records of the past.  More and more homes around the world are displaying fondly a picture of England’s Lake District, a valued legacy from the photographers of generations past.

David Murray, a native of Cumbria now returned to the North, is owner of a growing portfolio of niche websites including some about the English Lake District.  The Lake District In Old Photos, Around-England and The Lake District in Books are three of his sites about which he is especially enthusiastic. [This paragraph updated, October 2011]

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Paris Metro Pass March 6, 2009 at 04:44

I like this blog. It’s content is interesting and informative.

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