Having several stereo card viewers dating from the Victorian era up to the 1940’s, I am often on the lookout for interesting stereo cards as I do enjoy actually looking at scenes shot in 3-D, rather than just collecting the cards for the sake of collecting.
Already well established by the 1850’s, stereo cards were produced in huge quantities well into the 1920’s so a vast number still exist. Unfortunately due to their very age, as well as only being made of simple card with the twin photographic images glued directly onto its face, usually by hand, many are in fact showing their age. It is not uncommon to now found them badly damages with scratched or faded images that often display the gluey finger prints of the person attaching the stereo pair of images!
A Victorian glue finger print!
By the middle of the 19th century with railway travel well established, the Victorians would love to visit historic places of interest all over the country, and Bradgate Park in the heart of Charnwood Forest was one such place. Being the ancestral home of the Grey family with Bradgate House having been built around 1520, and noteworthy as the birthplace of Lady Jane Grey “the nine day queen” July 10th – 19th 1553. Just as today, the Victorians would like a keepsake of places visited so enterprising photographers would also be out recording such locations to produce stereo cards for the ‘tourists’.
Looking through a box of stereo cards for sale recently I came across one where the scene looked strangely familiar, and the just readable words “Bradgate Park” hand written along one edge of the card was the giveaway. The trees depicted looked very much like the two old oak trees at one end of what is locally known as “Little Matlock” in Bradgate Park. With card in hand I visited Bradgate Park to both find the exact stop where the original stereo picture was taken and take a modern day stereo shot as well, to produce my own stereo card.
Locating the exact spot I was amazed how little the scene had changed in 150 years. The earthworks and ditch to the left are clearly visible as is the huge rock outcrop to right of the far tree. The foreground tree has lost the large “Y” shaped branch on the left of the trunk, and today a tell-tale knot is clearly visible in its place. Also the foreground tree has more of a left handed lean to it, not unexpected as it is growing at an odd angle.
After scanning the original card I was able to produce a “then and now” image keeping the same general cutout shape of the original picture. I am also in the process of creating a modern day stereo card capable of being viewed in a Victorian viewer.