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.