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100 years ago in Salford: Saucy stash of ‘obscene’ postcards must be destroyed

We live in age when semi-clad women are a sadly a regular fixture on advertising hoardings or plastered across our TV screens, but 100 years ago Salford people lived in more chaste times as this court case from June 1916 goes to show.

Henry Taylor, who owned a shop on Lower Broughton Road in Salford, incurred the wrath of Sergeant Ronan, obviously a pious and upstanding member of the local police force.

Ronan told Salford Magsitrates Court that he had raided Taylor’s premises after being tipped off by one shocked Salfordian to ‘objectionable postcards’ displayed in the shop window.

Purely for the purpose of “satisyfing his curiousity about the nature of these postcards”, the officer purchased 13 and took them away for close scrutiny.

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He was that shocked at what he saw that he decided that all of the offending postcards in the shop must be seized and burnt so as not to cause any more moral outrage.

A warrant was granted and the shop was raided.

That day Mr Taylor’s mother was minding the shop for him as he’d taken a day off to visit the Blackpool seaside.

The zealous policemen made their way to Lower Broughton Road, seizing a total of 133 postcards from the bemused Mrs Taylor under the Obscene Publications Act.

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Her son was now bound by the court to explain why these saucy photographic prints should not be destroyed.

Mr H. Gilman Jones appeared for the defence and asked Sergeant Ronan why he had picked the 133 postcards out a stock of more than 1,000 kept on the premises?

He replied that in his opinion that they were not obscene but ‘objectionable’, despite them being on open display in the shop window for any passerby to see.

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Henry Taylor had sent a letter to the court stating that if they found them to be objectionable he had no complaints about them being destroyed, adding that he felt that he had no case to answer.

The Stipendary Magistrate, Mr P.W. Atkin, wasn’t satisfied with Mr Taylor’s apology and asked, “Do you suggest that they are quite innocent? Are you going to say that they are of artistic or educational value?”

Mr Taylor said that they may be considered “vulgar” but in his opinion “not obscene”.

The Stipendary then asked him his opinion of one of the postcards, he replied that it was “indelicate and suggestive but not obscene”.

Unhappy with this reply the Magistrate asked him if the postcards were offensive to delicacy and chastity?

He replied, “Not to chastity but perhaps to delicacy.”

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The next set of questions posed by the Stipendary show how the morals of the age really worked.

He asked, “Would you show these postcards to ladies in your drawing room?

Mr Taylor replied, “I would no more think of showing them to ladies in my drawing room than putting my feet up on the mantlepiece.”

This seemed to enrage the Magistrate who stated that putting one’s feet up on the mantlepiece would only be bad manners and did the defendent find that pure and inoffensive?”

Thundering on, he described the postcards as being, “lewd, foul, filthy and disgusting”.

A cowed Henry Taylor then said that obscene was an ‘extreme’ word to use but agreed that the cards “could offend younger people” and he had no objection to them being destroyed.

This seemed to satisfy Mr P.W. Atkin, who then decided that the postcards should be burnt at the nearest police station and that no further action action would be taken against Mr Taylor.

The police however would take a keener interest in his shop, as the guardians of Salford’s moral virtue.

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.