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Tower Bridge celebrates a Mancunian homecoming

Date Sent: May 29 1908  

Sender: Nellie 

Recipient: Mrs J Royle (Ada), 106 CommonSide, Ansdell, Nr. Lytham  

Transcript: Dear Ada, I arrived home safe on Saturday, and am glad to tell you I started work on Monday feeling quite well.  Tell Elizabeth I waited 2 hrs for her, & was sorry I did not see her before I came home. Hoping she is having a good time. I hope (baby) is getting on alright, kiss her for me. Remember me to all with best love from Nellie xxxx. 

A handwritten postcard of the Tower Bridge

All too often vintage postcards seem to contain more questions than answers. Serves us right for reading other people’s correspondence, but where exactly had Nellie returned from? Is there something sinister in Elizabeth’s failure to keep her appointment with Nellie? The 29 May 1908 was a Friday – was there a reason Nellie delayed reassuring Ada of her safe return home for almost a week? 

Primarily what, if any, is the significance of Tower Bridge? Even today there remains a certain amount of rivalry between the Tower and Tower Bridge as to which is the more iconic. The Tower has the weight of antiquity on its side and can claim to have influenced the visual presentation of the engineering project that is the Bridge. But the world has accelerated since Tower Bridge entered the fray in 1894, and it has lost no time in staking its claim and establishing itself in the wider world’s heart. 

A postcard of Tower Bridge showing the Londond skyline. It has started to crack from age.

For once the image appears relatively contemporary – with motor vehicles rather than horses waiting for the bascules to lower. The sale of old stock cards still showing horse-drawn carts on the bridge was common practise presumably based on the very practical premise that as the structure hadn’t really changed that much such finer points of detail were of little concern. The card itself offers few clues – no publisher’s name, no advertising details and to be honest, not very good quality.  The cropping of the top of the southern turret suggests a lack of concern regarding the final image – it’s hardly a carefully constructed, artistic view. The White Tower’s familiar outline merges mistily into the golden horizon – or is it smog? The Manchester postmark can be explained by Nellie having returned home – perhaps her meeting with Elizabeth should have taken place in London?  Jessie says she hopes Elizabeth is having a good time, which suggests that she may be holidaying too. Even more frustratingly, Ada Royle does not appear to have been resident at this address in either 1901 or 1911 Censuses, so we don’t know anything further about her or baby!

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