Victorian Street Scene

Victorian Street Scene


Old photographs are fascinating for their details of daily life now lost to our experience. It is my intention to show views like this from time to time as well as looking at the work of living photographers.

This scene is highly unusual especially as it was taken in an urban area. It seems to depict a street performer atop of a large ball. He may have been part of a circus troupe that was visiting the neighbourhood and this was a way of drawing attention to the event. I have another view that’s part of the same collection of lantern slides which shows a crowd gathered around a street performance involving caged birds, so maybe this sort of scene was not so out of the ordinary.

The location is somewhere in the Black Country as the area around Smethwick, Oldbury, Dudley and West Bromwich is known, no doubt primarily because of the concentration of industry in the area.

The scene shows men, boys and a few women presumably either going to or returning from work. All the men and boys wear headgear of one kind or another, and the women either a shawl or a hat. The majority of the males wear jackets over a waistcoat. In the background are several horse drawn carts, and the houses at the back are large and fairly imposing. Notice also that there are at least two factory chimneys amongst the house chimneys.

This does not appear to be a posed photograph; indeed all those present are walking along, not standing around facing the camera. So how is it that the photographer is so high up and in an ideal location to capture the scene. Was it just good fortune that this family member had his camera to hand as this little procession approached? I say this because all the other lantern slides show a family group involved in various activities, frequently in holiday locations. Perhaps the photographer is leaning over his garden wall, but whatever the circumstances, they have managed to capture a remarkable scene for posterity.

Like the other photographs in the collection it was probably taken in the late 1880s. Further observations and comments about the possible location and event would be very welcome. …… John




4 thoughts on “Victorian Street Scene

  1. Great image John. I love old/vintage photographs as well. It is fabulously fun to observe the differences in culture between the then and now. I recently did a post with old photographs of my mother on her horse when she was young and included photographs from the present as well. It is sometimes quite fun to look into the past!

    Thanks for visiting my blog today! The “likes” were much appreciated!

    • Yes Robyn, I love old photographs too. We have a small collection of old lantern slides from which this image is taken and currently I’m copying another set of glass slides from friends in the town who’s family emigrated from Scotland to the US in the early nineteen hundreds, and who now have returned in their retirement. My collection of nineteenth century railway photographs has given me a great deal of pleasure as well. I just love looking at a world long gone.

  2. I love this picture. I’m in a band called The Iron Boot Scrapers, and this guy, on the ball seems to be a precursor of our look, and the fact he is a street performer. Is there any chance I can buy a high res copy of this pic to put on a backdrop banner for my band?

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