Review of ‘Wirksworth in Old Picture Postcards’, by Tony Holmes

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 9th October 2000, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Tony Holmes
Published by European Library
ISBN 90-288-2200-3 (2000)

One of the latest titles in the extensive Back in Time series of pictorial books, published by European Library, is this collection of early postcards depicting 20th century life in and around Wirksworth. Yet it is is much more than a visual record since rather than adding just a short caption to each picture, Tony Holmes gives generous background information.

The Back in Time series was born in the Netherlands in 1966 and now consists of more than 5,200 books, some 700 relating to the UK and Ireland. The intention is to give the reader an impression of what a particular place was like from around the turn of the 19th century and into more recent times. The earliest of almost eighty photographs in the Wirksworth edition come from the very end of the Victorian period and begin to take the reader through years of gradual decline in industries which once provided employment on the town's own doorstep. Since then of course Wirksworth has been revitalised and can reflect on its past more with nostalgia than regret.

Front Cover

Old postcards and photographs preserve views of Haarlem Mill when it still had its mill pond; the outlook from Yokecliffe showing open fields before they were covered in houses and factory buildings; horses and carts on St. John Street, which at the time sported gas lamps, a traditional barber's pole and a Temperance Hotel; a cadaverous chemist behind his counter and a cast of hundreds posing in the old market place. There are photographs of early well dressings and one postcard dated 1906 which shows a mysterious ceremony of which nothing at all is known. Gone now are the 16th-century priest's house, Wirksworth Hall and the stomach-churning monkey bridge which looks as though it should never have been there in the first place.

The majority of the pictures in the book are in fact larger than postcard size. Bound in a glossy hard-back cover.

Review by Julie Bunting

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