walking picture photo wallets, Skegness

Wrates (the apostrophe comes and goes!) are still based in Skegness, and have been in the commercial photography business for a remarkable 120 years or so now. These days they specialise in school photography and other event work, but between 1925 and 1970 or so they also snapped people on holiday in the town as they walked down the street.  The resulting prints were available to view as Wrates kiosks a few hours later and bought by the thousand as holiday souvenirs.  Each photo was sold in a small paper wallet with details of the firm on and how to buy reprints or extra copies on the back (the unsold photos would just be destroyed a few weeks later!)

Every few years the firm would change the design of these paper wallets, which were printed crudely (by letterpress) in their thousands.  This is a selection of those wallets which I’ve built up over the last few years while researching the firm (some of which come from their own archive which they were good enough to let me study last year.)

It would be quite hard to put them into exact date order, but I suspect a couple top left are pre-War. There are two from Coronation year, 1953, while those which mention colour photographs are from the mid-1960s onwards.  Only one features the famous ‘It’s so bracing’ tourist motto, albeit swopping the old fisherman for a young holidaymaker (though the fisherman sneaks onto one of the wallets.) , and another comes from nearby Mablethorpe where the firm also operated for many years. I suspect the seagull design bottom right is one of the last from the early 1970s. The photo below show the firm’s main sales outlet below the pier at that time (and shows how popular the photos still were!)

Needless to say none of these would make it onto a design award short-list and were probably drawn very quickly, perhaps in-house.  Yet I have a fondness for this kind of paper ephemera, and the otherwise forgotten connection with British holidays.

A book on this is due out in 2018, and I’ve done the design work for the cover, which was detailed on this site earlier.  The wallets here (and more from other firms) are being used for the end papers.

Skegness pier, Seventies


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