20th Century

Glimpses of the past

Whenever I am down south visiting my in-laws I like to pick up a selection of old photos from antique shops (don’t ask me why the North Island antique stores never seem to have such a thing).

This year I focused on two collections – my long-running ‘Fancy Dress’ collection, and a just-started ‘Aprons’ collection.  And I got a few other pretty things as well.

I’m just tickled about my two fancy dress finds.

The back to this one reads “myself in fancy dress as an old English lady”.  I think it is 1930s.  I love the paisley fabric of her dress, and the ‘bonnet’ made by tying a bow over a brimmed hat, and how terrifically bad the whole outfit is.  There is something so delightful about how amateur it is.


The second fancy dress photo is much more professional.  It’s a studio setting, and the costumes are quite elaborate:


Awww…  It’s Aladdin and Jasmine!  Or just a generic harem girl and Arab sheik.  The photo is signed ‘With Love, Roma’ and is pasted to an album sheet with the notation “One is Bernard Betheridge’s daughter Roma” (I presume the one sitting).

Speaking of which, this is Charles Betheridge (an uncle?):


Can anyone identify his uniform?

And Charles’ daughter, wearing what I think is an early set of bathing flotation devices:


I picked up baby Betheridge and her father Charles because they were pasted to the back of the album leaf with Roma’s fancy dress photo, but I’m just delighted to have a bigger picture of the Betheridge story.

I chose this ca. 1900 couple because the lady’s blouse was just too delicious to pass up on.  Perfect inspiration for the Historical Sew Fortnightly Stripes challenge  (due March 25)!  The back reads “With Compliments from May Taylor and Alick Copland”.  Is that the couple?  I’ve actually found one Alick Copland on a genealogy site, and he’s just the right age to be this Alick Copland.  He’s married to Catherine instead of May though.  I sense a story…

ca. 1900 couple "With Compliments from May Taylor and Alick Copland"


I loved how informal this late 1910s/early 20s photo is, and am touched by the hint of sadness – the gangly kids in their socks and sandals, their sleeves too short, the woman clutching her bag in front of her.  The back reads “Jill, Vera, Jim”.  I bet Jill and Jim are the kids.

Late 1910s/ early 1920s Mother & children.  Jill, Vera & Jim


Last of all, two 1940s photos with women in aprons.  I like apron photos for the reality – people usually take photos of their best clothes, not their work clothes, so apron photos are rare.

I wonder what the group in this photo is.  A scout group perhaps?  Are they showing off their just-finished aprons?

Girls in aprons, 1940s.  "Back Row from left: H. Smith, M Boyes, M Swaff, ord M. Howard, W Walsh, M Harris, A Ching, J Lucre, T Harley

The reverse reads:  “Back Row from left: H. Smith, M (or H, or A) Boyes, M Swaff, ord. M Howard, W Walsh, M Harris, A (of H) Ching, J Lucre, T Harley

And finally, an older woman in an apron with a child running out of the picture.  Can anyone identify the labels of the bottles on the grass?  Were they bottling, or playing lawn bowling or using them as cricket stumps perhaps?



  1. Margaret Robinson says

    Hi Dreamstress

    I think you will find the name is Betteridge, not Betheridge. Roma’s parents were Bernard and Maude, and she had a sister Ena and a brother Jeffrey. She was born in Eton, Bucks, in 1901. Bernard was a hairdresser, and in the 1911 census they were living in 18 High Street, Eton, Bucks (possibly above the shop? Looks like it’s now a Mercure Hotel).

    Charles Betteridge was Bernard’s brother, born about 1879 in Eton, who became a tailor, and there are 4 Charles Betteridges in the WWI Medal cards index, so I’d guess its WWI army uniform of some description.

    Could go further, if you’re interested. That’s only 5 minutes on ancestry.com – an unusual name like Roma really helps.

    Love your photo collections … I’m not allowed them, I have enough family photos already!

    Margaret Robinson

    • Thank you so much Margaret! I noticed that Betteridge was a popular alternative spelling of Betheridge. It’s definitely Betheridge on the cards – I wonder what relation they were to the writer, and how the family themselves spelled it (I know from my ancestors that even as recently as 1911 there could be many spellings for one name).

      • Lynne says

        That’s wonderful, Margaret! I love the stories behind the photos.

        And yes, one of my family names had variations in the spelling in the early twentieth century, too. The Mac/Mc/M’ variations were quite common. In my great grandfather’s obituary, his name is spelled ” M’Donald “.

  2. Lynne says

    Great collection of photos for so many reasons!

    The ‘old English lady’ shows what you can do with a rough idea, and far too little fabric.

    Isn’t May Taylor’s blouse and absolute shocker? You can just imagine her thinking, “I’ve got some of this nice dark ribbon left over. Why don’t I plonk and enormous spider smack in the front?” Only she’d have thought all this in language appropriate for the time. Do you think she and Alick Copland might be brother and sister? There is quite a strong facial resemblance.

    The older woman in the half-apron is fascinating – so many possibilities. Those look like beer bottles of some kind to me – I can’t recognise the label. They were worth returning – you got money for them! So they are unlikely to have been part of a game where they risked being broken. I think I spot washing over the neighbour’s fence, so probably not a Sunday.

    And the girls in their aprons and summer dresses – with black stockings and sandshoes! Very odd. They do have a dressed-up look – maybe they were doing the catering at some ‘do’.

    Such fun, to think of the stories behind the photos!

  3. What wonderful photos! I suspect my family pictures will end up in a shop somewhere, since I have no heirs to cherish them. Many in my family were profession photographers. I think this was the new technology in the early 20th century, like computers provided jobs later on. I have some great photos of my Grandpa and his brothers dressed in costumes. I’ve not published Great-uncle Pete, but must do so one day.


  4. Wow what an amazing glimpse into the past. The thing that struck me is the way the girls in the apron photo’s names are written. Initial+ surname was usually reserved for boys only – girls got their first name. Which makes me wonder if it is taken at a girls’ school, as there is no reason to differentiate between the genders.

  5. Jaqu says

    Sorry for late comment, but in the last photo you can see a glass flagon sitting in amongst the bottles, they were having an afternoon tipple.

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