What seems like an age ago now that the first of six free exhibitions celebrating the Golden Age of Postcards opened in Time & Talents, Old Mortuary. All was going well until Covid struck and all the venues booked for a tour of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe closed their doors and are only now slowly opening up again, writes Elizabeth Paul.
The exhibition, created and curated by Michael Holland from his book Dear Tommy takes a look behind the postcards sent to and from Rotherhithe & Bermondsey in the early 20th century. It is a social history of England with its focus on SE16 and SE1. Months of research has been done on the senders and receivers of the postcards from a hundred years ago to form a picture of the life and times of those who could very well be our ancestors; who lived in the streets that we now walk down; who lived in the houses that still stand today. We get an insight into the local work of that Victorian and Edwardian period, with many people employed in the leather or brewing industry, and many in domestic service. The exhibition gives an understanding of health problems before the safety net of a Welfare State and how children would be torn from the family to be placed in care homes and trained up as servants. The exhibition follows romances that play out over time via the postcards courting couples sent to each other, and, sadly, tells of those who fell in The Great War. There are hints at domestic violence, lack of work, and an itinerant community flocking to London to find employment. The Golden Age of Postcards shows that the ‘good old days’ that some people crave were far from good.
Michael says, ‘After years of looking at the pictures on the front I began looking at the messages on the back and realised there was a lot more interest and drama there… These are the years my nan was growing up in Rotherhithe – My nan walked down those streets just as they looked in those old postcards with the horse and carts, and trams… She used to tell me about the old town halls and theatres before they were bombed!’
Why should people visit the exhibition? ‘Every local person can relate to the postcards and words; they will know the pubs and streets, and might live in one of the houses that received a postcard all those years ago – They could even be related to the people mentioned.’
The exhibition can be seen at these venues where there will be an opening event with refreshments for each one. Signed copies of Dear Tommy will be available at a discounted price of £10.
Time & Talents2 (Opposite Tesco)Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, Redriff Rd, Rotherhithe, London SE16 7LL
Opens 12pm Saturday 23rd – 30th October
City Hope Church, 121 Drummond Rd, Bermondsey, London SE16 2JY
Opens Thursday 25th November 6.30pm until 6th December
Lewington Centre, 9 Eugenia Road, Silwood Estate, SE16 2RU
Opens 29th January 2022 6pm until 8th February
More venues to be added.