Friday, 18 October 2013

Snow imagery from the archives...

*** This post originally appeared on the Snow Scenes project blog ***

After joining the Snow Scenes project team in early September, I have spent the last few weeks immersed in a number of archives, searching for discussion, meteorological measurement, images, videos and audio recordings of all things snow and Cumbria related. From wonderful online resources like the British Pathé site, which features over 90,000 clips of newsreel footage from all over the UK, to regional records held in the County Record Office in Kendal, I have begun to unearth a wealth of records that help to connect the personal memories of snow we have begun to collect, to reports, data, and imagery from when the years your submissions relate to.

Whilst I have unearthed a large number of written documents, including a report on school closures in the winter of 1963, which details how ice had to regularly be broken in the toilets so the children could use them (!), it has been the wide range of images that I have come across that have most surprised me. Covering all corners of the county, most periods of the twentieth century, and ranging from professional landscapes to personal snaps, these images show how Cumbrian's cope and even thrive during the cold and snowy conditions the region repeatedly throws up.

As may be expected, the more recent and extreme the snowfall, the more imagery of it I've generally been unearthing, for example I have found many more photographs from the winter of 1963 than that of 1947, despite both being extremely severe by British standards. Despite this trend, the date of the earliest images of snow in what is today the county of Cumbria that I have found so far, may surprise you. When visiting the National Archives I speculatively begun exploring some larger folders that contained images by a few early photographers, who amongst many other locations had either lived, visited or worked in the Lakes. After sifting through 100's of photographs, all taken on pristine summer days, or on Swiss glaciers, I was rewarded with about 10 images of winter studies in Lakeland. Labelled as being from 1900-1903 (although I believe the earliest were actually taken in winter 1899), the photographs depict idyllic Lakeland landscapes with a Christmas card perfect dusting of snow (see below).

Derwentwater in winter. From a copy held in the National Archives (Copy 1/446) by Henry Mayson, Keswick © filed 09/05/1900
Credited to Keswick's early climbing and photographing pioneer George Perry Abraham and his photographic "rival" Henry Mayson, the photographs I found, were most likely featured on postcards, and remind us of the long history of tourism in the region. Similarly, whilst I have come across lots of accounts and images of severe hardship during snowy and winter extremes, I have been surprised by how many photographs depict recreation and fun winter activities such as skiing and ice-skating (see the images below).

Skiiing on the summit of Kirkstone Pass.
From glass slide negative held at the County Record Office, Kendal. Taken circa 1960 by J.Hardman, Press Photographer ©
(Inset: envelope slide found in)
"Boys ice skating," possibly on Rydal Water. Circa 1910, photographer unknown.
From County Record Office, Kendal (WDX 1251/8/1/90)
The Snow Scenes project would love to hear your memories and opinions on ice skating on the lakes of Cumbria. Do you think that its less common in recent decades? If so, why do you think this might be the case - less thick ice? More awareness of the dangers and risks involved? Let us know via the, "submit a memory" page on the project website.

Also the project wants any memories of snow and winter weather in the Cumbria region, however small, trivial or recent, so get submitting!

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