Marking time in November 2010
Gentle reader, if you know where this photograph was taken, please send me a message. The picture shows a small town gasworks, newly built or under construction. In front of the camera is the gas holder with five blokes sitting or standing on the empty vessel. Behind on the left is a shed (for storing feed stock?) and in the centre a brick building (the retort house?). No chimneys are visible (odd?). The style of the photographic print suggests a date in the 1870s, ’80s or ’90s. The name of the photographer suggests the place shown may be one of the 61 former gasworks sites in New South Wales. Any ideas?
The photo is an albumen print mounted on a landscape cabinet card. The otherwise plain back is marked with a rubber stamp: Chas. Hedley, Photographer.—probably the C Hedley who was operating in 1896 in Uralla, New South Wales, according to The mechanical eye in Australia: photography 1841-1900. The use of the rubber stamp (rather than a smart litho-printed backmark), along with the lack of a studio address on the photo, suggest that Mr Hedley was an itinerant photographer in a tentative mode of business. But I expect whoever received this print as a seasonal gift was happy to have it, as proof that the town was going ahead—whatever town that was.
(I have a fondness for municipal gasworks, those once-smelly markers of nineteenth-century civilization. I look at their remaining fragments wherever I see them. Recent sightings include examples in Florence, Venice and Rome. Closer to home, the one I saw a year ago in Dunedin is especially noteworthy.)