Picture postcards: an entertaining source of local
A talk given to our 2013 AGM by Peter Lawrence, MLHG
Did you know that a post card boom hit Britain in
the 1840s? The government suddenly allowed
ordinary people to send personal messages on an open
card for less than half a modern day penny, including
postage. Everyone could afford them.
At four deliveries a day they were virtually the emails
of their time.
It was a boom time for the Royal
Mail, and also for the village newsagents that became
Post Card Depots, collecting them by the sackful to send
to the sorting offices. It was also a boom time for
artists cum photographers, who produced pictures of
pretty well anything and anybody, and for the printers
who brought them out in bulk. Most villages had their
own printer making local post cards.
The end result was an illustrated
social history of the real people of Nineteenth and
Twentieth Century Britain.
Photographers returned again and again to the same
streets. So, for example, we saw horse-drawn buses being
replaced by open top electric trams. The trams suddenly
grew roofs, only to be pushed aside by petrol powered
buses, which soon were supplanted by private cars in
largely empty roads.
Family photos were often converted into postcards and so
we saw snapshots of of changing fashions and of
differing social conventions. It used to be the man who
sat whilst his wife stood dutifully behind him. Even
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert posed like this, thus
people imitated this so-called Royal Pose right up to
the 1930s. Children happily posed for the strange man
with a camera, whilst ladies waited for trains dressed
as if for Ascot. Why do they all look so much smarter in
Most of Peter's postcards were from
his time in London and Essex. Now he is starting on his
Norfolk collection, like the local one opposite.
(Above: Potter Heigham Bridge Halt - one of the postcards in
Peter Lawrence's collection)