Friday, February 1, 2013

Sepia Saturday-162. Bicycles etc

Introduction, for a first post in a new blog

For a long time I have been following the blogs of my friend Brett Payne at Photo Sleuth, and more recently his posts for Sepia Saturday. I have lots of old photos, not as a collector, but just as a lucky series of inheritances. As and when time permits I like to go digging to explain the unexplained, and over the years Brett has helped me and taught me a thing or two.

Now is the time to have a crack at blogging some of my material as I have always been conscious that whilst I rely enormously on what others have blogged, much of what I discover I never share. I want to start to put that right.

This Saturday the Sepia Saturday theme is:

so here goes !!!!

The Harris Cycle Co Ltd, Coventry, England

A few years ago, from my late father's papers, I unearthed this old trade catalogue, with a strange manuscript message on the front cover.

Even the most unadventurous could not fail to follow the instruction, and this is what I found inside:

 "Mr Aspdin's Testimony"

Now...this "Mr Aspdin" is supposedly my grandfather, Bertie Dyche Aspdin (1871 to 1943). He died before I was born, and I only know him from photos. It certainly does look like him. But was this just a family joke? Did someone spot a Doppelgänger and send it to my grandfather? This needed a little more investigation.

Firstly...... a slightly better resolution of the model:

It certainly looks to me like a man of the right
 age group, in 1908 he would have been aged
 37, so I cannot discount him on age grounds.

My grandfather was no model. He was a bank clerk all his life, a one company man (ignoring later takeover by the Westminster Bank) rising from the bottom aged 17 in 1888, to be Chief cashier and Counter Clerk of The Derby and Derbyshire Banking Company Ltd at his retirement in 1936.

His appointment letter of June 1888.

He was a careful man. His first weeks wage was a half-sovereign. A full sovereign was GBP £1, a gold coin then. He did not spend it, and I still have it.

Back to some photo evidence..........

In my inherited photos I have an image on very thin photographic paper. I suspect that this is an unmounted image, as might be offered for sale at the time, at the most modest price to the public, by local publishers such as Richard Keene and his successors or perhaps by another local publisher. It is of the premises of the main branch of the The Derby and Derbyshire Banking Company Ltd in Corn Market, Derby, on the occasion of the visit to Derby of Queen Victoria on May 21, 1891.

The local publisher, Hobson "Advertiser" of Market Place, Derby,  describes the bank's decorations in its illustrated memorial volume of the visit as follows: The strong point of the Derby and Derbyshire Banking Co's, premises was its splendid series of crystal illuminations, in Messrs. Defries and Co's, best style, embracing a magnificent device of blue and white, with Royal initials in the centre, and surmounted with a ruby and amber crown. On either side were the letters "V.R." in huge white crystals, and above them were stars with red cross centres, encircled with the motto of the Order of the Garter, Honi soit qui mal y pense. Here, also, in addition to a noble shield of the Royal arms, was a most effective drapery of brown material, with a heavy fringing and tassels of amber quite the prettiest thing in this part of the thoroughfare.

Now what would a 20 year old counter clerk be doing on such a special day? Surely all the customers would be out on the street celebrating? Business was probably be slack. That's right, he would be peering out of the window watching the happenings in the street !!

So is this Bertie Aspdin? I do think so.


 Here are 3 photos that are definitely Bertie Aspdin, probably circa 1889, 1892 and 1901, the last being when he was about 30, and still about 7 years before the cycle photo.

Was Bertie a cyclist?

The answer to this is yes, at the turn of the century he was clearly a keen cyclist as he was a member of the Cyclists Touring Club for a number of years, and carefully kept his annual metal membership badges along with its silver holder. But I am afraid that is all I know about his cycling days. Its pretty conclusive that he took more than just a utility interest in cycling, and so could well have taken up the invitation from The Harris Cycle Co Ltd:

One more clue, and a salutary warning from Bertie's death certificate:


What do you think? Was the man in the catalogue Bertie Aspdin or a Doppelgänger ? Please vote in the comments.

Post Script (February 7, 2013)

The facade of the Derby and Derbyshire Banking Company Ltd bank building is now somewhat different, and I had wondered when it was re-modeled, the ground floor banking hall being extended towards the street marginally, and flush with the adjacent buildings.

The building ground floor is now occupied by The BookCafe.

I have to say that it looks very pleasant and comfortable,
but living so nearby I rarely frequent local restaurants
 and cafes, it seems an extravagance to me when I can
boil the kettle at home !

After I sent a link to my blog to Lisa at BookCafe, she too wondered about the extension, so I told her I would find out. Sure enough the excellent Derby Local Studies Library quickly came up with the answer. The remodeling was done circa 1926 at the order of Westminster Bank Ltd to a design by T.H. Thorpe R.I.B.A. of Derby.

Derby and Derbyshire Banking Company Ltd had been acquired by  Parr's Bank Ltd circa 1897, which in turn merged with London & Westminster Bank Ltd, later known as Westminster Bank Ltd from 1923.

The  1924 plans and below the 1926 architect's letter to the Derby Borough Surveyor



  1. Well I have to be the first to make a comment on this blog. Welcome to Sepia Saturday, and a most worthy entry too. I look forward to many more contributions from your archives.

    What do I think about Bertie as a bicycle model? I agree, it was him.

    As far as the salutary Death Certificate warning is concerned, my great-grandfather's death certificate has a similar endorsement, "Carcinoma of the tongue," which is not surprising considering the number of photos I have of him smoking a pipe.

  2. Welcome Nigel. Your opening salvo is terrific - loaded with interesting information. You are the first vexicologist I've ever "met". After I read your "about me" I spent a full hour surfing around learning about the hobby.

    What a thrifty and far sighted person Bertie was, to have kept his first earnings to pass along to the family and I agree with Brett and think "Bertie" was the model. His bearing and good looks would certainly make him model material.

    The death certificate was an inspired ending for a wonderful tail, er...tale.

  3. Welcome Nigel. I look forward to reading more from you. You've set your own bar pretty high, I'd say.

    I vote YES, based on the nose and close-cut hairline at the ear. He was handsome and deserved better than to be associated with the disclaimer that "Weighty men need fear no longer . . . . "

  4. Looking forward to reading your blogs.

  5. Yes, I agree with your mate Brett, it is him I'm sure. A great post and I look forward to future offerings.

  6. Could be? Great post; very interesting. Thanks

  7. Welcome to Sepia Saturday, Nigel. Enjoyed reading about all your sleuthing. I particularly like all those family history elements.
    And I vote yes, it's him. Reason: similar chin line, similar nose and height of forehead and a very similar earlobe. No doubt, it's him! And then, lookalikes didn't exist in those days :)

    1. PS I also have flags, some 40 normal sized ones and all signal flags. Did not know this habit was called vexicology (my spelling corrector tries to change this into toxicology). But I stopped collecting them, space problems...

  8. 10/10 for your first Sepia post, Nigel. It must have been as much fun to put together as it was for us to read.
    A"Yes" from me too.

  9. Welcome aboard and I'll be following you in the weeks to come.
    I started posting at Sepia Saturday last week and looking forward to seeing everyone's interpretations of the themes.

  10. Hello Nigel.Welcome.Oh Yes, I think Bertie Aspdin's Your Man!

  11. Welcome to Sepia Saturday, Nigel! (That is my son's name also.)

    I thoroughly enjoyed your first post and am your newest follower. Have you signed up for our SS Facebook page yet?

    Kathy M.

  12. What a wonderful post. And the unrivaled bicycles of the empire. What a time period that was.

  13. You see I'm a curious person and I would probably turn immediately to page 30! Great photos and I am also a new follower!

  14. Yes I think you have tracked him down. Welcome to Sepia Saturday, it is great to have you on board. I am sure you will become a regular and I am sure that we will continue to enjoy your fascinating posts in the weeks and months ahead.

  15. Yes, I will enter my vote as a yes, it's him in the photo. Looks just like him.
    Glad you've joined Sepia Saturday. I'll look forward to your future posts.

  16. A fine photo detective story and I add my welcome as well. I can't disagree with everyone but I can suggest a technique I've used that works well. The right profiles have nice clear views of ears. Most image software will import each image as a layer which you overlay, making one layer semi-transparent and then compare the triangle of eyes, ear, and mouth. A mismatch will be apparent when the center points of ear and eye are misaligned.

    1. Thank you for that tip Mike, I will try it. I am not sure if you use Picassa, but that has an uncanny habit of recognising faces and grouping them, and it seems surprisingly accurate. It must work on similar mathematical principles hidden deep in the software, but it needs full face, I don't think it can manage profiles.

      At this point, may I take the opportunity to thank everyone above for all their kind comments to my first post for Sepia Saturday.