Wednesday, July 8, 2015

An Old Group Portrait

June 7, 1909
Dear Basil,
Many thanks for P.P.C. to hand June 2. This appears to have been the first one to reach Sutton Coldfield and as a consequence the "Aston" family are extremely jealous. Bert is far more gone on the girls than he used to be in fact I think he is making himself too cheap. Mr.(?) Jones class* had another picnic on Whit-monday & we had a splendid time. I never enjoyed myself more. Your mother & sister are away at present as you probably know & Elsie Aston seems quite lost without Gladys. More later.

* originally I thought this word was "clan", but a comment by Jean Belle suggested "class."

The message on the back of this postcard is dated June 7, 1909 and was written by Oliver to Basil. Even though there is a lot written on the back of the card, the group, its location, and occasion are not actually identified. It seems likely that the location is Sutton Coalfield. The group looks like it could be a church group. There are about twice as many women as men, and only a couple of children. The expressions on the faces are quite varied, though none of them look especially happy.

Are We Having Fun Yet?
Could this possibly be the splendid enjoyable picnic on Whit-monday?

Sutton Coalfield is a town that is a suburb of the city of Birmingham in the West Midlands of England. Historically in Warwickshire, it became part of Birmingham and the West Midlands metropolitan county in 1974. (source: Wikipedia)


There are a number of  old images and family photographs of Sutton Coldfield here. This postcard of Sutton Park shown there is from the same era as the group photo. It looks like it would be a popular place for a picnic and a possible location for the group photo.

The verse written on this card is:
Along the path under the trees,
How they do each other squeeze,
If trees could talk tell tales they might,
Along this path on a Sunday night.

For More Vintage Images


  1. It might say "Mr. Jones class had another picnic on Whit-Monday" . Whit Monday was a holiday in the UK, the day after Pentecost Sunday (Whit Sunday), the 7th Sunday after Easter. Great photo card. Love the hats!

  2. If the photograph is of the class, they must have been having more fun than it appears. Does P.P.C. refers to a picture post card or photographic post card that Basil has previously sent to Oliver?

    1. I think it refers to a post card, but I guess the second "P" could be picture or photographic.

  3. I loved the hats! You can really make a statement with a hat -- even the two diminutive hats (in the top row of ladies) are statement kind of hats -- more delicate and flowery in my eyes. Great photo.

  4. They don't appear to be overjoyed to be there but maybe they fell about laughing as soon as the photo was over.

  5. My uncle lived in Sutton Coldfield, so it was particularly interesting to read the background to your featured postcard. I always find pictures with those large hats so fascinating.

    Family History Fun

  6. I love your comment wondering if that first picture could possibly be the splendid enjoyable picnic on Whit-monday? On viewing that photo one wouldn't immediately conclude this was a happy group of picnickers! Perhaps the photo was taken before they really got into the fun of it? It's hard to imagine - in this day & age - doing much of anything on a picnic wearing those long 'covering everything' dresses & hats except sitting on a blanket nibbling food & watching the birds flit about. Did they play softball? Volleyball? Participate in fun relay races? Maybe - but it's hard to imagine.

  7. That little poem written on the Blackroot Pool card certainly lets us all know what the BEST activity was along those shores!

  8. That is a most elegant photo. But fancy picnicing all dressed up like that.. Loved the Sunday night reference !

  9. A neat photo postcard made better by having a detailed message. b,Photographers had quite a challenge to align faces and hats to best effect.

  10. The boy at the front looks especially gum, but what splendid hats!

  11. 1909, the heyday of cartwheel hats - what a magnificent group outing.


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