Step Back In Time

Monday, 18 July 2011

Reasons why I love my job, number 78974587: I get to go and poke around fascinating houses.


I've been taking tons of photos recently for new website purposes and took so many on my recent visit to the Hardmans' House that I had to share some of them. I'll show you the house and the business in the next post but I wanted this one to focus on Margaret Hardman. She's not very well known unless you happen to have already visited the house but she's a character that I like very much. And you are (mostly) all partial to a bit of vintage loveliness, are you not?


So, in brief... the house is an amazing time capsule of 40s and 50s life. The Hardmans ran a successful portrait photography business from it for decades and it's the only known British photographic studio of the mid 20th century where the photographer's entire output has been preserved intact. The archive consists of over 200,000 photographs, negatives, prints and business records and the house is crammed with stuff. Edward and Margaret Hardman lived in a couple of rooms upstairs and they could politely be described as hoarders. Pretty much everything remains in the house. Clothes, rations, books, love letters...




Margaret was born in Liverpool in 1909 and came to work for the Burrell & Hardman studio in 1926. She and Edward fell in love but it wasn't an easy relationship. Neither of them were wealthy and so marriage wasn't an option straight away. She struck out on her own and went to work for a photographer's studio up in Scotland, armed with this glowing reference from the business.


She kept in touch with Edward and they met often in Scotland. However most of their contact was via letter (all written in the third person, complete with nicknames) and although some of them are a tad cringeworthy/romantic depending on your tolerance for said nicknames, other are just so sad to read. He said that "the light has gone out of his life because she has turned her face away from him". My romantic soul aches for them.



But huzzah! All ended well. They resolved the financial and career issues and she moved back to Liverpool in 1932. They got married and lived happily ever after, running a successful business and having lots of holidays in scenic parts of the UK so that they could indulge their passion for landscape photography.


She strikes me as a woman quite ahead of her time. No sitting around and wringing her hands over her love life - she just found herself a new job, upped sticks and moved hundreds of miles away. Hard enough to do now, but imagine doing it in the 1920s. I love the fact that she was so preoccupied with work that she basically had no time and interest in housework and all that jazz. They seemed to have lived off boiled eggs and meals out. Here's a little Margaret joke for you: "What do Scotland and our kitchen have in common? Both have islands of Muck."

Everything of hers is still in the house and they've been able to pull the most wonderful array of stuff out of drawers and boxes for a special exhibition entitled Cameras & Camisoles. The Hardmans were never rich so there are no great designer clothes or expensive jewellery but it's a beautifully complete and poignant reminder of the woman that she was. Excellent taste in shoes and jewellery as well!










Margaret's newly restored wedding dress. Teeny in real life!



Her things are also to be found all over the living quarters of the house and it's so wonderfully evocative and real. I do like a house with stuff all over the place.









I love this photo that's up on their bedroom wall. What a dashing chap he was.

She was a great photographer in her own right as well as being the brains and driving force behind the business. Edward said, very simply, "I could not have done it without her."



Robert Donat, photographed by Margaret in 1928.




The rather wonderfully titled Monks on Skates, taken in 1932




She wrote all the advertising for the business too. I love this sign.



Margaret died in 1970. Edward lived until 1988, practically as a recluse. It's a sad ending to what was a very happy life together.




Coming up soon, another post on the business areas of the house and their flat. Delicious amounts of 40's & 50's ephemera!

ps - sorry to be a bore, but I had special permission to take these photographs and to use Margaret and Edward's photographs (copyright of these does not belong to me). Please don't reuse them without asking.

41 comments:

  1. What a fascinating woman and a lovely story. I will have to visit next time I am in Liverpool. Also, I covet that bag with the M on it xx

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  2. Oh how absolutely lovely and facinating! I'm completely and utterly JEALOUS of your job btw!
    What a fantastic story Margaret has to tell, and how amazing that you're so involved with making it happen.
    I am literally on the edge of my seat waiting to hear more!
    I'll definitely be wanting to go and visit. I just love nosying around people's ACTUAL things, rather than approximations of what MIGHT have been there.
    This has totally made my lunchtime!

    xxx Maddie

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  3. A step bak in time indeed. I saw the exhibit and was very impressed. I adore the story behind antique garments. And I especially love her love story.

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  4. Oh what a fantastic post! A gorgeous relationship with a sad beginning and end. She looks so good in her pictures. Is it just me or do her shoes look slightly irregular choice-esque?!

    So interesting, can't wait for the follow up post xx

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  5. Wow what agorgeous story :) I love those snippets of letters they wrote to each other an ex and I wrote letters to each other when we were dating 7 years ago, it was so much nicer than a text or email!

    Kc

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  6. Oh Alex, what a place to visit. Love the pictures and the restored wedding dress is beautiful. Can't wait to see more of the business side, and what an inspirational woman as the drive behind what they did!

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  7. This looks absolutely fascinating Alex, you are a lucky girl indeed. She sounds an amazing woman and what a love story! It makes me sad when couples like this who seem so meant for each other, die decades apart. Looking forward to the next installment xxx

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  8. Oh what an amazing job you have, to have access to such wonderful things!

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  9. Oh this is wonderful. I am so glad the management let you take photos and you shared them with us. I think their love letters are so sweet and earnest. Yes, you must have the best sort of job in the world. :)

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  10. Wow this is amazing, i love the pearl ring in the photo of the jewellery and her wedding dress x

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  11. Isn't it a wonderful place? You've captured it beautifully.

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  12. ahh i love these photos and what a fabulous post :)
    it's making me want to add this to my list of places to visit, the next trip to liverpool may be about a week long ;)

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  13. p.s. i love the monks on skates. and the title :)

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  14. How completely fascinating. The letters are astounding - they seem so modern. How weird that of all the many things that change over the years, the basic relationship between a man and a woman stays the same!

    Her possessions are just amazing, too. I am ridiculously nosey and a peek into someone else's life will always satisfy my curiosity. Her shoes are fabulous.

    Can't wait to see more of your photos Alex - if you need any help with the new website you're working on, you know where to find me! :) x

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  15. What a fabulous post. It's also answered a burning question I've had for ages, did anyone ever buy those face straps I've seem advertised in old magazines? Yes and there's one on the dressing table to prove it. x

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  16. Ha, I was wondering what a face strap was too! A great post, can't wait to read the next installment.

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  17. look at those glows... they are as white as the first day they came out of the shop...

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  18. A fascinating post, Alex. I like a good hoarder!

    That wedding dress looks lovely and I love the last pic.

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  19. I loved your post. It's so interesting to see into the more ordinary people's lives in the past. Social history is much more fascinating that big sprawling world history. xxx ps wonderful pics! x

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  20. How fascinating! She certainly looks like a woman ahead of her time...

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  21. What a great post, thanks for sharing. What a great job to have!

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  22. What a lovely story - I'd love to know more (c'mon Alex, there's a novel in here - crack on!). xx

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  23. Brilliant post, I really enjoyed learning about Margaret, what a fascinating woman. I'd love to see the house for myself, and am lusting after her handbag (also for myself, if only I had an 'M' initial) x

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  24. Fascinating. Both the story and all the photos - theirs and yours of their possessions. More please!

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  25. Wow, what an amazing woman! I LOVED this post! So interesting! What is your job by the way? Am I being really dense not realising what it is?

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  26. marvellous! I loved looking through the pictures. Gobbles - what a nickname! The suit is a dream and love the blue wedding dress. The white gloves and jewellery are so lovely.

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  27. What a romantic story, I can go to bed with a happy heart. I'll definitely have to pop over the river to visit their house, their possessions look beautiful in your photos.

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  28. What an interesting post1 I loved seeing Margaret's personal possessions.

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  29. Job jealousy, I has it !
    Fantastic post, fantastic clothes/shoes pics and I so can't wait for more

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  30. Oh Alex what a beautiful story!

    The photos are stunning and knowing the history makes them all the more special. She truly was a woman before her time wasn't she?

    I'm a sucker for a bit of romance. Sounds like you have been fairly busy with work? Missed your posts hun.

    X x

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  31. oh wow...what a fabulous story...just brilliant, how amazing it's all been preserved so beautifully, and what a joy it must have been to be able to photograph it !!

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  32. How utterly charming! I love her shoes and gloves and ...well everything really the letters are gorgeous.
    xx

    http://homemadefashionista.blogspot.com/

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  33. What an amazing story. The letters are intriguing...so passionate and relatable. This is a really great post, looking forward to hearing more x

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  34. OMG,that was wonderful!!! I'm quite fascinated;there's nothing like a good nosy,and this is a nosy dream come true!I'd so love to touch and womanhandle the bits and pieces.she was so pretty,and as you say,terribly amazing for the times,brave and strong!!
    thank you for this lovely post!!
    Love! XXX

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  35. Oh my this is so incredibly fascinating! And can I just say: how awesome is your job???!

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  36. Love the pictures <3.

    Sadie x

    http://www.brandnewbutterflywings.com/

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  37. Alex what a wonderful insight into an incredible life. Margaret strikes me as a very independent and strong woman, she certainly fulfilled many a life’s toughest challenges. She took the bad and made it the good. I admire the fact that she was personally able to achieve so much, and ultimately find the happy ending with the true love of her life.
    As you well know I am forever enthralled with nostalgia, this sounds like a tale completely up my own street x

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  38. Oh Alex!!! I adored this post. I absolutely must visit. Amazing. Thank you. Much love, C xx

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