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Watch the birdie!

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 22, 2014

  • A very unusual old photograph of a lady in bed with her pet bird

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THESE fascinating old photographs have been brought to us by Glenys Smith of Madeley, near Telford.

The picture at the top of the page, dating from the end of the 19th century or beginning of the 20th, is very unusual and we may never have had a picture like it in the Bugle before.

Old photographs of domestic interiors are rare and photographs of bedrooms are especially rare.

In the old days, photographs tended to be formal affairs, the sitters stiffly posed. Usually, portrait pictures were taken at the photographer's studio or they were taken outside, to get best advantage of the daylight.

Interior photographs were difficult for photographers to take, as they would have to transport their cameras and lighting equipment, and if someone was going to the trouble and expense of having a room in their home photographed, it was generally the best room, with the finest pieces of furniture, and not a bedroom that was used.

But this photograph is even more unusual. Not only do we have a picture of a bedroom but we have a picture of someone in bed! There is no Sunday best outfit for this lady, she is recorded for posterity in her nightcap and bedshirt – quite outrageous by Victorian standards of propriety. After all, it is most unlikely that she would ever allow anyone outside her closest family to ever see her in such attire.

The lady must have particularly wanted this photograph to be taken and a clue as to the reason may be found if you follow the direction of her eyes. She is looking at a bird perched on the counterpane.

It is difficult to tell what kind of bird it is but it may be a blackbird or a thrush. Songbirds of this kind were common pets; one theory behind West Bromwich Albion's "Throstles" nickname is that it comes from the caged bird that was kept at the pub where the early teams changed for their matches.

We have our picture of a Victorian lady with her pet songbird but who was she? Glenys found the photograph many years ago among her late great-aunt Milly Kinsella's affects but she has no idea who the lady was.

Another mystery photograph found at Milly's Wednesbury home shows an old lady with a baby upon her knee. This picture is the usual studio portrait and was taken by Hudson and Co of the Great Western Arcade, Birmingham, and branches in Walsall, Dudley, Wolverhampton and Coventry.

Again, Glenys does not know who she was but she does bear a resemblance to the lady with the bird. Does anyone recognise a grandmother or great-grandmother?

Glenys' last picture shows the wedding of Kath Kinsella and Tom Rotton, her parents, in 1941 at St Mary's Church, Wednesbury. This photograph was taken by John Aston of Darlaston and again we ask if readers recognise anyone.

Can you name anyone in these pictures? Have you any unusual old family photos to share? Contact dshaw@blackcountrybugle.co.uk or write to 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

Gordon Hensman's Weatherview will return next week.

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