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