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Last days of the old North (of England)
August 26, 2008 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Last Days of the Old North (of England). A fascinating selection of photographs - mostly from the late sixties/early seventies documenting an era when it truly was grim up north. Made all the more interesting by the erudite and comprehensive commentary by the photographer.
posted by idiomatika (36 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Old North is the New North minus the air pollution.

when it truly was grim up north

You'll have PeterMcDermott down on you like a ton of scouse.
posted by Jofus at 7:54 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm a northerner myself, so I'm allowed to say such things. It's only soft, southern shandy-drinkers that can't.
posted by idiomatika at 7:59 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I live in a street just like this in Bradford. The cobbles are covered in the black stuff, and the Yorkshire stone pavement was stolen years ago and probably paves somebody's garden somewhere else in the country now. It was replaced several years after being stolen.

It says there there's nothing but a wall between your house and the one on the next street. This was true for my house until Saturday morning when a hole appeared in the bedroom wall with a builder on the other side of it. Somehow I'd slept through them doing precisely the same thing downstairs. Fsckers.
posted by vbfg at 8:00 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


the New North

Entry?

That's a snicket in Bradford, and in Leeds it's a ginnell. I wonder what other words there are for them.
posted by vbfg at 8:02 AM on August 26, 2008


Every day looks like Sunday.
posted by punkfloyd at 8:02 AM on August 26, 2008


The Dream Academy: Life in a Northern Town.
posted by ericb at 8:06 AM on August 26, 2008


That's a snicket in Bradford, and in Leeds it's a ginnell. I wonder what other words there are for them.

They're ginnels in Manchester too. Anything else is WRONG!
posted by Jofus at 8:12 AM on August 26, 2008


The Dream Academy -- Life in A Northern Town (Rare 1st version).
posted by ericb at 8:23 AM on August 26, 2008


Where Manchester and Leeds have ginnells, Nottingham has twitchells.
posted by pinkbuttonanus at 8:40 AM on August 26, 2008


The more things change, the more they stay the same. Anyone watch "Shameless" on Sundance?

Also, "Sweet Sixteen". Absolutely brutal. I recommend it.

I wish American white trash were as intelligent and entertaining. [end rant before it starts]
posted by Xoebe at 8:43 AM on August 26, 2008


an era when it truly was grim up north [and in the Midlands]

It looks a lot nicer back then than it did in the '80s. (Though, if I remember, the Black Country in the mid-to-late '80s was still in the '70s, long hair, flares and all.)
posted by jack_mo at 8:47 AM on August 26, 2008


:theme from coronation street:

My grandfather was from Blackpool, so he probably saw things like this, maybe with as little color. However I understand Blackpool is / was a tourist destination, so perhaps there was a grim kind of fun ladled over the bleakness there.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:53 AM on August 26, 2008


I wish American white trash were as intelligent and entertaining.

I'm one of those blokes who leaps from the sofa when Shameless comes on, shaking his fists and shouting "CLASS TOURISTS!"
posted by Jofus at 8:53 AM on August 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


And now the new north...lots of shiny shopping malls and half empty condos.
posted by srboisvert at 9:03 AM on August 26, 2008


Last days..I'm not convinced, that part of Widnes would have kept looking the same until well into the 1980's. Its intriuging, I was born in Widnes in 1971 - I just wish the photographer had gone a bit further into the town, shot some of the places I'm more familiar within in detail. It wouldn't have made much difference grimness wise though.
posted by biffa at 9:11 AM on August 26, 2008


I remember when all this were factories...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:29 AM on August 26, 2008


I like where he talks about 'one of the most vilely cold days I can remember' and the river isn't at all frozen. That ain't even chilly.

Seriously, though, great photos. Did he take them knowing (or hoping) they'd have historic value, or was that just luck?
posted by echo target at 9:43 AM on August 26, 2008


These photos are perfectly beautiful in their smoky, grainy bleakness. Utterly bleak, very beautiful. Nary a tree in sight. As streets, they could sure as hell use some trees. As photos, trees on these streets would detract from their perfection.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:48 AM on August 26, 2008


Lots of planets have a North.
posted by MrGuilt at 9:58 AM on August 26, 2008


This isn't the North. Newcastle is the North
posted by A189Nut at 10:43 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I remember a childhood in Preston in dingy, sooty shades of black and white, just like this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:50 AM on August 26, 2008


I like where he talks about 'one of the most vilely cold days I can remember' and the river isn't at all frozen. That ain't even chilly.

The Mersey will be the last river still flowing following the heat death of the universe. Early 1970s it was likely to be mostly not water. All of the factories you can see in the Widnes and Runcorn photos were chemical, and they were all there so they could pour their waste effluent straight into the river.
posted by biffa at 11:08 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


And they knocked it all down and we got this instead.

Sigh
posted by fallingbadgers at 11:08 AM on August 26, 2008


Very cool slideshow.

Thanks!
posted by BobFrapples at 11:30 AM on August 26, 2008


Dudley is not the North, it ought to be noted.

The photos and commentary are indeed fascinating. I'm pleased the photographer notes that some of his thinking around things like clean air is unlikely to be shared by the people living there; similarly his observations (and some of the Flickr comments) on the beauty of the industrial canals are rather offset, for me, by having lived near and worked around Dudley at one point; a mate I was over there got talking to an old bloke fishing in the modernised, EU-cleaned up canals and he was practically in tears at how wonderful it was that the canals were now clean and you could fish in them; it took him back to his childhood. The factories may have been pictureseque, but they made an absolute slagheap of everything around them.

Similarly, his waxing nostaligc for "wild play" in his childhood (the 1950s, I'd guess) would look odd to a previous generation who bemoaned the industrialisation of areas like Dudley - Tolkein is a high-profile example of someone who grew up in the West Midlands and bemoaned the encroachment of suburbs and factories on the wild play of his youth, around places like Stourbridge and Dudley and so on. It just shows, I guess, that the magic memories of one's youth can be the hellish mess of another's adulthood.
posted by rodgerd at 12:01 PM on August 26, 2008


In truth, though, despite pockets of redevelopment and injections of European cash, there are still areas of post-industrial England which remain easily as grim. Perhaps the most radical change though is climate: as a child in the 70s, severe, many-month winters were the absolute norm but these days I seem conditioned toward the same and slightly muggy endless season. Wondeful images, particularly those of the Midlands which traditionally gets a little overlooked I feel.
posted by specialbrew at 12:02 PM on August 26, 2008


the Yorkshire stone pavement was stolen years ago and probably paves somebody's garden somewhere

I think in Bradford it was mostly stolen by the council and used to re-pave Little Germany and turn it into Heritage.
posted by ninebelow at 12:06 PM on August 26, 2008


I really can;t cope with Shameless - it's a pudding so over-egged it's virtually omelette. Class tourists, indeed.

The houses in those pictures, if Salford is anything to go by, will all be boarded up now, windows and doors sealed off with aluminium shutters. Whole streets of terraces like that.

Incidentally, where I grew up still looks like that.
posted by mippy at 12:07 PM on August 26, 2008


Thanks for posting this, idiomatika, Fray Bentos' photos are marvelous.

I've lived in Ancoats for a couple of years and have become fascinated by the area. Some of those photos are of my own neighbourhood before gentrification started. My grandparents lived in this area before moving away (and my grandmother was born in Moss Side). I can see why they moved.

It's amusing he writes that in 1981 "The survival of a scene like this into the 1980s was exceptional" - it was still pretty much like that in 2005 (self link). It now looks more like this.

Junction Street/Jutland Street/Stony Brow is still cobbled, but the walls on both sides have gone. There's yet another redundant skyscraper hotel being built on one side, and flats are on the other.
posted by BinaryApe at 12:54 PM on August 26, 2008


Caught the last couple of episodes of Britain From The Air (which I had previously dismissed as 'geography for thickos') and it had some interesting stuff on the changes Manchester has undergone in recent years... distribution warehouses were there were once factories, and instead of the factories around Old Trafford there are now car parks for the fans.

One of the big differences in those streets then and now (as I read in a book on the history of photography a short while a go) is the lack of cars makes them look so deserted.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:16 PM on August 26, 2008


I grew up in villages in different parts of the north; it was very pretty and the summers went on forever. Better to be a country prole in those days before all the jobs and shops and services had gone and I imagine very different sort of childhood than one in a big town, though I see city kids these days are getting into shooting too now.
posted by Abiezer at 3:29 PM on August 26, 2008


Yikes, nostalgia attack.

This isn't the North. Newcastle is the North

Correct. And I say that as a Smoggie, born and bred.

I remember a childhood in Preston in dingy, sooty shades of black and white, just like this.

Many would argue that things haven't changed...


BinaryApe - those photos bring back memories of when I lived in Ancoats - I walked that section of the canal a few times (generally with a couple of friends - well, you know what the locals are like... :-) ).
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 3:49 PM on August 26, 2008


About time Fray Bentos made an appearance on the blue. His archival photography is legendary on Flickr, at least in the circle of Bristol based photographers.

"Did he take them knowing (or hoping) they'd have historic value, or was that just luck?"

From what I can gather, he's been taking these photographs of local areas his entire life. At least from his teen years, and he's no spring chicken. He's got an absolutely amazing knowledge of Bristol. Really, if you have any interest in local history in the UK and he's covered an area you know, click through.

He does however, hate graffiti and general street art, so I've avoided direct conversations with him lest we clash and I lose respect for his brilliantness.
posted by saturnine at 5:29 PM on August 26, 2008


I've probably said it in another thread, but a persistent and poignant memory of my time in Japan is listening the Verve's "A Northern Soul" during a chilly winter spent living in an abandoned workman's shack on the snowy, frigid and industrial north coast of Japan.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:35 PM on August 26, 2008


it's grim up north. (teehee)
posted by object-a at 8:05 PM on August 26, 2008


Earlier than the song, the phrase "it's grim up north" was the bogus title of a parody of British films from the fifties

But now I'm wondering if it predates that. Anyone?
posted by IndigoJones at 6:32 AM on August 27, 2008


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