Sunday Afternoon on Camberwell Green

Px02019_8000x500_Photoscape-Mac - 15b Apr 2015

Above: A hand-coloured postcard of Camberwell Green. (Kindly lent by Derek Barrett).


Above: Detail from another card which was obviously printed from the same negative.

The view of Camberwell Green is taken from a postcard which, from the look of it, was taken some time around 1910 and probably not later than 1930. The two views come from two postcards – one hand coloured and the other in monochrome but both printed from exactly the same negative. The monochrome card shows greater detail.

What is of interest is the congregation of people – most of them quite well-to-do standing around or sitting on the public seating. Of course, we do not know for certain that it was Sunday afternoon but it rather looks as if it might be because everyone is dressed in their ‘Sunday best clothes’. It would hardly have been taken in the week when, if anybody was to be seen on ‘The Green’ they would have been walking purposefully to work and probably not dressed as these people are. It looks like a sunny day too, probably in the middle of summer because nobody has a coat on and nobody is carrying an umbrella. Added to that the trees are in full leaf.

Notice that the lawns are well kept and they have a low wire fence-rail to prevent people staying off the path and onto the grass. There may even have been a ‘Keep of the Grass’ notice – as there were in many parks.

As was normal in those days, the photographer was almost certainly standing beside his large camera, mounted on a tripod. Although most of the people have either not noticed him or they are too busy, being engaged in conversation, the elderly gentleman in a Bowler hat sitting on the seat on the far right certainly has and he is casting a steely glance at the man who is taking the picture.

Beside the old gentleman is a family group also sitting on the same seat – a lady, three small girls and a small pram. He could be the grandfather to the family. In the centre, standing on the path, is a group of a mother (or nursemaid) holding a baby talking presumably to two girls who she has met on the footpath. Every other female in the picture has a hat on except the female holding the child which is why it is likely she may be the nursemaid. She may have been with the girl on the left, with the large pram. That girl is looking rather bored so she may be a nursemaid or perhaps the elder daughter. The pram is marvellous, with its two large wheels and very narrow rims, and two little wheels in the front. Notice also the two metal ‘stands’ behind the large wheels.

There is not sufficient detail in the picture to make out the rest of the people further back. It would appear that a young courting couple are walking towards us on the footpath. To the right of them is a man also wearing a Bowler hat walking by himself, also coming towards us.

Its a most interesting view and, after looking at it, you almost feel that you have been part of the scene, if only for a fleeting moment while you examine the detail.


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