Sometimes it just takes the tiniest detail to get a vital clue

The Smithy, Manafon, Wales, 1894.
176 megapixel, 2,400 dpi scan (15,559 x 11,326 pixels)

Zoomable view via Google Open Gallery. Double click to zoom. Click and hold to move. Or use zoom tools visible on hover.

When I first saw this image I loved it, but immediately started pouring over it for any clues as to where it was taken, and when. It’s a dry plate negative and the format and dress clues suggest it is late Victorian. At 160mm x 120mm it’s a good size (larger than a typical half-plate, but seemingly not a conventional size) and it is very sharp so there are lots of details, but it still took a good lens to get the first clue – the posters on the walls are announcing events surrounding the Montgomeryshire by-election, 1894. The question then was, if this is Montgomeryshire, which village/town might it be? The clue lay in the tiniest detail in the smallest poster, something that was only revealed by a high resolution scan.

Poster for Montgomeryshire By-Election Public Meeting, Manafon, Wales

Poster for Montgomeryshire By-Election Public Meeting, Manafon, Wales. On the original negative this detail is ca 2mm across.

On the image above, zoom right into the small poster over the shoulder of the gent standing furthest right. On the original negative this poster is in total no more than 2mm wide. At the top it says ‘MANAFON’, the name of a small village in mid-Wales. Looking at an old contemporary map revealed that there was a smithy, then Google Maps was used to confirm the overall layout of the buildings (and the fact that they still stand). Final confirmation came from Google Street View which shows that the scene, at least from an architectural point of view, has barely changed.

The icing on the cake is that I have since been in touch with the current occupants to find that the property has been in the same family for several hundred years, and that one of the chaps in the aprons is probably the lady’s great-grandfather.

This entry was posted in 1890s, Discoveries, Hints and Tips and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.