Review of ‘Picture the Past Website’ (2), by Neil Bettridge

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

by Neil Bettridge
Published in hardback by Breedon Books
ISBN 1-85983-642-2 (2008)

For the past five years, an online treasure trove of images has been accessible to all via the Picture the Past website. Neil Bettridge, an archivist for almost 25 years, has now assembled a wonderfully evocative selection of these pictures for publication.

Chapter headings range from Growing Up to Life on the Land to Wicked Weather, displaying life in the Peak District through everyday scenes, views and portraits dating back even beyond the early days of photography to centuries-old prints. Nevertheless, many choices will be within living memory of our readers: Tissington sheep dipping around 1980; tractors at Megdale in Matlock c1950 - turning the land that now lies under the new supermarket development; a thronged Bakewell livestock market on its old site; a long queue for bread in Buxton during the bakers' strike of 1974; children at their desks - as few as eight pupils in one country classroom - and long-lost shops of nostalgic memory all around the Peak. Village post offices are still open, doorstep deliveries of bottled milk arrive by horse and cart, and a clog maker takes a short break for the camera. Lead ore is being drawn up a mining shaft at Bradwell; peas are being canned at a factory in Calver and cotton is spun again at Litton Mill.

Covering 224 pages, the images are of no mean size, the vast majority being allocated either a half or full page. Based on attentive research, the accompanying information is generous and sometimes extraordinary - Chuck Berry surrounded by Hell's Angels in Buxton? Yes, really. Many images wear their descriptions lightly, for instance the Taddington maypole dancers from an era when, Neil reminds us, 'the term pole-dancing had a much more innocent flavour.'

Review by Julie Bunting

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