In the background the post-war remains of once-thriving industries glower. The wooden buildings manage to be attractive yet functional. In the foreground, an ornate gas lamp stands proud without illuminating the scene.
This is a heavy, industrial, masculine area, the kind of place where you wouldn’t want to stroll after dark.
Yet curiously, there’s a family group on the right. The tall thin man is in Army uniform (I can see what might be a single stripe on either arm) and chivalrously walks on the outside of the pavement to protect the womenfolk from any dangers the road might hold. He’s holding a small girl by the hand. Two other women walk beside; another man in the front.
It could be Paris. But it’s Strood — Canal Road, to be precise. They were taken by Mr Arthur Fray, of Cambridge Road, Strood, in 1950, and he has kindly lent them. The buildings are, in fact, the oil and cake mills.
The second picture is of the walkway that straddled the road — a fine example of the old can-do, know-how-to-do-it attitude in Medway’s manufacturing history.
And what about that lamp standard, then? Isn’t it classy? Unusually, I can’t see the bar on the side where the lamplighter rested his ladder; maybe it’s at the back. I recall the last days of gas lamps; we had outside one our house in Mount Road, Borstal. As a small boy I watched in fascination as the man came along to light it and was disappointed when they were converted to electricity and clicked on with a time switch.
I was even more irked when the iron lamp standards were carted away and replaced with an ugly modern pole. Why did they do it? Presumably for the same reason that red telephone boxes later were succeeded by nasty plastic things. I wonder if other readers agree?
Thank you, Mr Fray: these images conjure up an age of lost industrial magnificence.