Review of ‘The Spirit of Ashbourne: 2’, by Lindsey Porter

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 2nd December 2002, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

THE SPIRIT OF ASHBOURNE: 2

Author Lindsey Porter published the first volume of 'The Spirit of Ashbourne' to commemorate the millennium. That book led to the location of more than enough additional photographs to bring this new volume into being. Its title actually extends to 'The 20th Century in Photographs'.

As the author's own interests include both history and photography, his must have been a labour of love - not for the first time in the Landmark Collector's Library series. Although Lindsey Porter knows Ashbourne very well indeed, he has been surprised at the changes which have taken place during his own lifetime and there is a certain amount of sadness in realising what has been lost.

Here we can see the river before it was culverted, flowing openly along Dig Street; a rooftop school playground apparently three storeys above ground; sides of meat, whole hams and feathered poultry hanging outside shops (now against EU regulations); milk being delivered to Nestlé in churns; a steam roller at work; and banners calling upon God to bless the King at the coronation of the first British monarch of the 20th century.

We find the unmistakable figure of General Booth of Salvation Army fame and whose wife was a native of Ashbourne, and the all-male preserve of a bathing club, very fetching too in their long woollen bathing suits ready for a dip in their local 'swimming pool' - a section of the river. Un-named inhabitants are dressed to kill - dignitaries in top hats and dandies in boaters, men in uniform from soldiers and constables to bandsmen and a very 'non-PC' fire brigade, big lads in short trousers and little lads in frocks, and of course ladies with bizarre hairstyles and the latest style in millinery.

The great delight of such old photographs often lies in the detail. Caught by the camera just in time, many old Dickensian properties are on their last legs with deep cracks in the walls, smashed windows and boarded-up doorways. Tin baths hang on outhouse walls, barrels catch rainwater at the bottom of drainpipes, and ornate gas lamps and striped barbers' poles add interest to the street scenes. Peer closely and you will see the advertisements - Dale Robertson starring at the town's Empire cinema, Allans Teeth, Colman's Starch, Omo, The Weekly Sentinel (Family Paper) and cigarettes with names to conjure up the past - Robin, Players Weights, Park Drive, Wills's Woodbines, Craven 'A' and more besides.

All this is not to say that the elegance of Ashbourne is omitted from this wonderful collection of 375 photographs, with space also given to scenes of Mayfield and other nearby villages, all touched in one way or another by the 20th century.

'The Spirit of Ashbourne: 2' is published by Landmark Publishing of Ashbourne, price £19.95. Stocked by local shops or to order by quoting ISBN 1-84306-065-5.

Review by Julie Bunting


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