Latest Mysteries

Check out the latest mysteries and see if there’s anything you can help identify.

If you have any mysteries you want posting here for others to see, drop me a line.

70,000 unique advertising images discovered – famous TV adverts from the 1960s/70s

On set filming a Tizer advert, March 1971

On set filming a Tizer advert, March 1971

Alan Parker filming a Hamlet advert at Wimbledon, April 1974

Congratulations, Sir Bruce

Wimbledon Centre Court, 1974 - Alan Parker filming a famous Hamlet advert

Wimbledon Centre Court, 1974 - filming a famous Hamlet advert

Wimbledon Centre Court, 1974 - filming a famous Hamlet advert

Wimbledon Centre Court, 1974 - filming a famous Hamlet advert

Wimbledon Centre Court, 1974 - filming a famous Hamlet advert

Wimbledon Centre Court, 1974 - filming a famous Hamlet advert

Wimbledon Centre Court, 1974 - filming a famous Hamlet advert

Wimbledon Centre Court, 1974 - filming a famous Hamlet advert

Wimbledon Centre Court, 1974 - filming a famous Hamlet advert

Henry Cooper, the late, great boxing hero

About two years ago I bought a very inconspicuous looking batch of photographic negatives at auction. At the time I didn’t look at them closely, thinking they were mainly product stills, albeit of good quality, and all nicely catalogued with the name of the product on each envelope. I just put in a low bid out of curiosity, and to make sure they didn’t end up in the bin. Anyway, I say batch – they were in about 30 card boxes, some slightly larger than a lever-arch file, others being 10×8 photographic paper boxes, but every one stuffed full of envelopes of 35mm and medium format negatives. My wife was furious!

The reason for this posting is pretty much to test the water, get a little awareness of the collection and see what I might be able to do with it.

Here’s a short clip from the advert

There’s a full version available on YouTube

The digital copies shown here (chosen as this week sees the start of Wimbledon) are very rough shots taken with a handheld camera with the negatives placed on a lightbox. The original negatives are superb quality. To give some idea of the scale of the collection: there are 117 negatives from the Wimbledon Hamlet advert shoot, but the collection contains images from approximately 481 shoots, and I estimate about 70,000 negatives in total. They are mostly from TV adverts from the late 1960s and into the 1970s. They are all very high quality, pristine original negatives.

The product list reads like a who’s who of major brands – Vauxhall, Bird’s Eye, Bass, Heineken, Ind Coope, Corona, KP, Cadburys, Hamlet, Mellow Virginia … the list just goes on (so much so that I’ve put them all online). And they are from famous advertising agencies too, such as CDP (Collett Dickenson Pearce)

Famous names depicted include James Hunt, Penelope Keith, David Frost, Clement Freud, Barry Sheene, Henry Cooper, Bruce Forsyth, Roy Kinear, and last but not least, Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise.

And there are famous directors too – Alan Parker, Ridley Scott, Terence Donovan – and one of the beauties of the collection is that they show them in action, together with cameras, lighting rigs, sets, props. A real insight into the behind-the-scenes goings on.

So, what next?

As with all my images, I love to share them online for everyone to appreciate. Equally, it is brilliant to get everyone’s feedback and identifications (I’m rubbish with recognising famous people – I’m sure there are loads in these that are currently unidentified).

The most notable issue though is that it is unclear exactly what the copyright situation is on these images. They were taken by a professional company, but would have been contracted by the ad agency, who in turn would have had a contract with the brand (in the case of the Wimbledon ones shown, Hamlet) and probably signed over all rights to creatives made during the filming. Similarly, though less likely, the actors may have retained some rights.

I would dearly love to slowly make this collection public as it forms a remarkable documentary of the heyday of TV advertising. But I fear doubts over rights, and fears of a challenge, might scupper my hopes and the collection will remain under wraps until any copyright has expired.

Answers on a postcard please (or just leave a comment below!). Or maybe that should just read “anyone know a good lawyer?”


- watch the Wimbledon Hamlet advert
- check for more images from this unique collection (I hope to add more over time)

Early Triumph Model H motorcycle – possibly Hull

As seen on Flickr

Early 4hp (550cc) Triumph Model H motorcycle – 1920s? Possibly Hull.
Early 4hp (550cc) Triumph Model H motorcycle - 1920s? Possibly Hull.

Image by whatsthatpicture
Click on image to view original on Flickr

Another image of mine that appears to be on the verge of a complete identification.

The bike was identified as an early 4hp (550cc) Triumph Model H motorcycle. But I’ve just had a Flickr contact do some great detective work based on the name on the shop behind, and there’s a very strong feeling that this must be Pease Street and Anlaby Road in Hull. Certainly the architectural details around the doors and windows are a very strong match with ones that can be seen in photos at

The final unknown is therefore the date. I’m thinking 1920s, but can anyone suggest anything more precise?

Whatever happened to Maggie Dickson, b. late 1881?

As seen on Flickr

Portrait of family group including “Archie, Frank & Maggie” Dickson? Dated 10 January 1882, from mystery album
Portrait of family group including "Archie, Frank & Maggie" Dickson? Dated 10 January 1882, from mystery album

Image by whatsthatpicture
Click on image to view original on Flickr

At the risk of continuing a slightly morbid theme (see previous post about Janet Gray) the first mystery in this photograph is what happened to baby Maggie Dickson. There are plenty of named photographs of what I presume must be her brothers in this mystery album, but this is the only one of her. Then again, it appears to be the only picture of her parents too.  She is not present in the 1891 or 1901 census reports.

And the second mystery is to ask where father Arthur Dickson was in 1891, with his family back in Scotland – still in Burmah? And what was he doing? In the 1901 Scottish census his profession is transcribed somewhat mysteriously as a Toser Merchant!

Who was Janet Gray, born 9 May 1854, died 22 December 1870, aged just 16 years 7 months?

As seen on Flickr

Janet Gray, born 9 May 1854, died 22 December 1870, aged 16 years 7 months, by Anderson, Melrose
Janet Gray, born 9 May 1854, died 22 December 1870, aged 16 years 7 months, by Anderson, Melrose

Image by whatsthatpicture
Click on image to view original on Flickr

It’s sadly not that common to find a named card, rare still to find one with a date of birth, but this must be the only photograph I have in my collection that has name, birth date and date of death.

And what a tragically young age.

But despite all of this information I have still been unable to trace who she was. Would anyone care to have a try?

In focus: Lickley-Dunlop Victorian Family Album

52 Unknown family, Glasgow mid 1860s
Family Group, early 1860s, by Downie, Jamaica St, Glasgow

I stumbled across a wonderful Victorian album on Flickr today. It is so typical of family albums assembled during that era, with images ranging from the early 1860s (including some real gems like the family portrait shown here) through to the 1880s or even 1890s. I have a few of these albums myself, just not of my own ancestors, only strangers.

It must be a real treasure to have something like this preserved in the family, but it’s great to also see it shared online.  If anyone can help with any dating or identifications I’m sure Don would be very pleased to hear from you.

Images from the Lickley-Dunlop Victorian Family Album. Displayed with kind permission.

View the whole set on Flickr

A little local architectural knowledge always helps

As seen on Flickr

Mystery World War 1 stereoview (14 of 14)
Mystery World War 1 stereoview (14 of 14)

Image by whatsthatpicture
Click on image to view original on Flickr

Thanks to Flickr user Tagada Victoria, a Swiss resident, we may be a step closer to knowing where this image was taken. It has certainly narrowed down – and possibly refocussed – the search as this information casts doubt on my assumption that this is was taken in World War 1. On reflection this was based on little evidence other than war-related images in the same batch – lesson learnt there I think about jumping to conclusions!

She has posted a link searching the .ch version of Google Images for the term ‘clocher Comtois‘. Clocher translates as steeple, whilst Comtois is the name of a region on the French-Swiss border. I’ve had a good look through several hundred images, but haven’t yet spotted a match.

This is also a great example of where not just the overall style of architecture but also specific tiny details can help with a positive identification. This particular steeple is notable for the combination of what I assume is a clock above the window/vent in the tower, but also another circular unknown feature (surely not another clock?) within the roof of the steeple itself. Looking at the vast numbers of images in the search results, I’ve certainly not seen others like it. Another clearly apparent characteristic that distinguishes them from one another is the style of the very top part (I’m sure it must have name!). In some it’s a spike, in others a cross or ball (or both), and in others such as this one a more open structure, what I learnt some while back (again from a Flickr user) is called a cuppola (see this image of Felsted, Essex).

So, I can’t help but feel that an identification of this location is in sight.

A birthday gift from Annie Pretty

I stumbled across the site Reminiscene via twitter today.  It’s a site which aims to reunite orphaned photographs, and indeed whole albums, with their long-lost rightful owners. An admirable intention in itself, but also some wonderful photos, great stories, and intriguing mysteries.

Annie PrettyHere’s just one example of the albums that they have placed online.

The album is inscribed “A Present From  Your Lovin Partner Annie Pretty as a Birthday Gift With Her Best Wishes to
Sarah Stannard 1884″

The images appear to all be cartes de visite, seemingly dating from about the time the album was given.  Studio locations include Hadleigh and Colchester, plus a few from east and south London.

If you think you can lend a hand with identification head on over to see the full album, and drop them a note with anything you find.  There are several more like it too, and some nice stories of the ones that have been re-homed.

Mystery stereoview of church ruins, France, WW1

Mystery stereoview of church ruins

Mystery stereoview of church ruins

Mystery stereoview of church ruins

Originally uploaded to Flickr by whatsthatpicture

Almost certainly France, probably just after just after World War 1. But do we stand any chance of finding out more about where this might be?

Mystery album of 19th century images with Scottish, English, Irish, European, Asian and Australian connections

Norma Robertson McEdward

Norma Robertson McEdward

This wonderful album contains an amazing assortment of some 140 images, ranging from the early 1860s and containing primarily carte de visite and cabinet portraits, but also animals and landscapes.

The largest single nation represented is Scotland, but with many images from just across the border in Berwick upon Tweed, and then on through Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, British Burmah and Australia.

Family names represented include Dickson, Edward,Young, Gray, Yair(?) and Clarke.

There are even two ‘celebrity’ pictures, one of Professor Blackie, the other unconfirmed (Prof Sellers?).

Here are some pages highlighting the different photographs in the album, and what I have managed to find out about them.

Mr Platt, corn miller (repost)

Another repost from the ‘old’ site, this one from July 2008 …

Every now and again we feature a particular picture or album that has caught our eye, and we think visitors will be able to help with.

Mr Platt, Corn Miller, Manchester, 1870sHere’s an interesting one that the genealogical wizards out there will no doubt be able to help track down. Unusually for a Carte de Visite it has been captioned with a surname and occupation. So we have a Mr Platt, who was a corn miller, and the photo was taken in Manchester. From the visual evidence I would say late 1870s or into the 1880s.

It’s one of several photos of mine that I have placed in a set aptly titled ‘A selection of named but unknown people‘. Take a look at the pictures and see how many you can help identify…

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