|My mother, Audrey Carr (née Blease), aged two, with her mother Julia Blease (née Mattison, later Ghent)|
Antonioni's 1966's film Blow-Up is a firm favourite of mine, so much so that I named my book of short stories inspired by details in old postcards Blow-Ups. I've blogged about that before and I've also blogged about the wonderful shop that my great-grandparents ran in Richmond, Yorkshire, before WWII: Mattison's Bazaar. In this post I'm going to combine the two.
The urge to write about our family history was strong in both my mother, Audrey Carr, and her mother, Julia Ghent (pictured together, above). And it seems it's just as strong in me, a need that nags away at me and demands to be fulfilled. In fact I've been planning to write about my mum and other members of my family for years and have been accumulating memories and photographs and source material until I now have a mountain of anecdotes and insights just begging to be written up -- except that I've made the task so daunting, now, that I don't seem to be able to get a foothold on that memory-mountain and it's proving hard to get down to the job of turning it all into a book. Where to start? How far back should I go, in order to set up the back story that will make sense of my mother and me and our strange, funny, sad entanglement?
Really, I just need to jump in. I can sort out the final shape of the story once I've written it! So, as I way of coaxing myself into making a start, here's a Richmond 'Blow-Up' which I find very pleasing. My great-grandparents John (usually known as Jack) and Julia Mattison were the figureheads of my family when I was growing up and it seemed as though everything we stood for as a family flowed from them. My great grandfather was a skilled tinsmith who could make almost anything out of sheet metal. My great grandmother was a born businesswoman, tremendously hardworking and singleminded. She ran an ambitious shop, which she named Mattison's Bazaar, in the 1920s and 1930s. It occupied two sites in Richmond market place at different times - I'm not sure of the exact dates when it was at each premises. In the map above, I've coloured them in: the yellow block is next door to the King's Head, the grandest hotel and drinking spot in Richmond. But today we're focusing on the pink location, down at the far end of the market place, next to the much smaller Richmond Hotel. The address was no. 30 The Market Place and it was a long narrow plot, with my great grandfather's tinsmithing workshop down at the bottom, near the little cut-through known as 'Waterloo' (although I see it's now labelled 'Waterloo Street' on Google StreetView).
The sepia postcard above dates from 1936 and shows Trinity Church (famous for having shops built right up against it) and the Market Cross.This is as close as I can get to the same view on Google StreetView today:
In the more recent shot, the shop that was the Bazaar is the central red-brick building, one of two occupied by the Yorkshire Trading Company (in fact I've taken it from 2018 StreetView as there were less cars in that version). In May 2023 (time of writing), it's actually Elixir restaurant.
It's thrilling for me to see the shop during the period when it was in operation. The rather grand door to the right of the shop window was the entrance to the living quarters above the shop. And I think this derelict structure must be the remains of Jack Mattison's workshop behind the shop:
These photos reconnect me with my family so powerfully. It's just the shot I needed to get me started with my memoir in earnest.