Book review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
Copeland: The Postcard Collection by Alan W. Routledge. Amberley £14.99
England's highest mountain and England's deepest lake, Scafell and Wastwater make Copeland a rather special district. Add to this forty miles of coast with the cliffs of St Bees Head and the sandy beaches to the south, the Georgian town of Whitehaven and Millom, Ravenglass, Cleator Moor, Egremont and much else and then stop the clock, freeze the frame. and see it as it was a hundred years ago.
Small children, girls in their white pinafore dresses, play on the bare field which runs down to Millom harbour. A schoolgirl in a straw bonnet stands on the platform as the steam train passes under the trellised iron footbridge. Boys in their schoolcaps chat on the pavement outside the sweet shop in St George's Terrace.
An angler crouches beneath Stainton packhorse bridge, contemplating the day's fishing ahead. Another man in a flat-cap sits almost astride the little locomotive hauling a crowded train along the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.
A mother in a long black dress and white apron holds the hand of a toddler as they make their way past the Post Office in a deserted Ravenglass.
Four little girls in bright dresses. blue, pink and white with bonnets to match, huddle in excited conversation by the thick-set hedge in front of Drigg church. Two old men lean on their walking sticks as they mull over the affairs of the day on the little stone bridge at Boot.
A climber perches triumphantly and perilously on the top of Napes Needle as others precariously clamber up or down. A lonely boatman pushes out on the serene surface of Wastwater ready to disturb the floating bulk of Great Gable.
A weary railway-worker makes his way up the Neb from Seascale walking past a massive perambulator as a nursemaid takes advantage of a sunny afternoon. A mother and her little girl stand beside the bathing machines on Seascale beach planning the fun to be had in the day ahead.
A lady in a white blouse waits outside the stationers, James Graham, in Main Street, St Bees, whilst, down on the beach, a group of lads, their trouser legs rolled up above their knees, play in the pools of water.
A lonely cart climbs the street in Beckermet. A brass band marches down the street in Egremont on gala day. A group of men stand on the small jetty by the Angler's Inn and look thoughtfully at the waters of Ennerdale.
A delivery man stands by his cart laden with barrels in Cleator Moor, as the housewives look out from the doors of their terraced houses. Members of the Freemasons in their bowler hats parade in the Square at the funeral of a fellow mason.
Children crowd around the embankment at La'al Sands in Whitehaven Harbour. Crowds mill around on the quayside waiting to board the steam packet to the Isle of Man. Little girls wait outside by the railings for the National School to open. An old lady stands patiently, purse in hand, as a stall holder stoops to wrap her goods in a marketplace packed with cautious shoppers.
The old lady has long gone, the climber has descended Napes Needle and even the angler has ceased fishing. The lakes and the hills remain and the streets have been slowly transformed.
Alan Routledge reveals how Copeland has changed in the century since the photographers took their carefully contrived pictures. His notes to each postcard are detailed and informative, almost as though he knew each shopkeeper and each shopper, but it is the pictures themselves which tell their own silent stories.