Past to Present

Dave Woodhall reviews some recently published photographic histories.

You know what you’re getting with Amberley Books. A lot of photos on a specific subject, some interesting, other less so, featuring scenes from social history., together with a modern comparison of the same and a brief narrative. It can be fascinating if you’re familiar with the area in question, but if not they can still be of interest.

Harborne through Time

Harborne through Time

One of Amberley’s recent publications is Harborne through Time, by local historian Beryl Beavis. The formula is standard –a history of the area, which in this case brings up some interesting facts (for example, Harborne used to include Smethwick, which must have made for some remarkable socio-economic contrasts) with the usual range of them and now images. There’s a few too may of the High Street, which hasn’t real changed much over the decades, and some nice shots of the pre-Victorian rural area as well as the current and still picturesque Moor Pool estate.

The book costs £14.99.

Digbeth, Deritend and Highgate through Time was always going to be a more worthy addition to the series, simply because it covers the oldest and most historic part of the city. Written by Ted Rudge and Keith Clenton, with a foreword by Caral Chinn, it shows the development of the area from the early days of photography, through to the modern era – from industry and deprivation to its current role where innovation and tradition sit together.

This one is also £14.99.

The third, and slightly different, of their recent releases is Old Birmingham Shops, by Eric Armstrong. Despite the title there’s more than just retail photos; this tome features all manner of images, including some rather incongruous trade adverts. Again, it’s interesting rather than totally absorbing, and costs £12.99.

All are available from bookshops and via