The images posted here are from Rossendale’s photographic collection. I have been looking for evidence of townsfolk using the countryside for recreational purposes, especially mixed group or family activities. These come from a set of glass plate slides previously stored in damp conditions. While now they are as stable as is possible, the overall poor state of the slides would for most make this set unusable. Nonetheless, I could see from my initial survey that some did still contain images that were worth capturing and in so doing I think we have happened upon something noteworthy.
The slides soundly evidence a well established relationship between townsfolk and the natural world that was based around health and wellbeing, and social cohesion/mobility. Moreover I think the slides (perhaps a little less obviously) support the idea that a motivating force was something not dissimilar to a folk memory of pre-industrial life in the villages. This seemed especially so with the slides I found of ruined farmsteads and cottages that lay scattered around the hillsides and moors. Here nature held qualities of goodness and purity and perhaps reminded some of childhood and the more intimate relationships with extended family that village life could offer — all of which were radically upset in the relatively rapidly emerging industrial townships. Such sensibilities emerged as a romantic and nostalgic engagement with the local natural environment and was something that was exploited by contemporaneous advertising campaigns. Bread baked with original ingredients “like Grandma used” was somehow more pure than its competitors regardless of the actual amount of lead white it contained!
The often beautiful deterioration of the slides gives them a sense of returning to a more natural state — bringing with it an aesthetic quality not at all dissimilar to the ruined farmsteads that the slides often depict. They remind us (in case we needed reminding) that these are snapshots of times past, of peoples’ lives now lived and at times offer a rare glimpse into the sensibilities of those people. Perhaps our rediscovery and representation of these beautiful artefacts is similar to the forces at play that urged their creator to capture the beautiful deterioration of the farmstead as nature reclaimed it around one hundred years earlier. Not then denying my own role in this we must conclude that the slides also reveal this researcher to be touched with a similar sensitivity as perhaps the original creators of the slides.