Amazing pre-war pictures show our cultural heritage, warts and all!

A woman dries her washing in a photograph by Humphrey Spender
A woman dries her washing in a photograph by Humphrey Spender

Our top columnist Geoffrey Shryhane looks back at time when washing was done in tin baths in front of a roaring fire...

Every town has its cross to bear. We in Wigan still live with Orwell, and the good folks of Bolton perhaps wish a fellow called Humphrey Spender has given the town a miss.

So just for a change, let’s go to Bolton.

Mr Spender arrived in the town in 1936 – the same year that Orwell came to Wigan – to take part in a Government mass observation programme, collecting first-hand information on all aspects of life.

Bolton became known as “worktown” and in addition to taking the historic photos, he also interviewed the people. Bolton was a truly working-class town and was filled with mills and heavy industry.

The magnificent town hall was the only thing of beauty, looming out of the grime and mists.

The photographs show how kids made their own entertainments on cobbled streets, how women hung out their washing, and how babies were washed in tin baths near roaring fires.