A series of images which could predate the oldest-known photographs of Salford by a staggering 25 years have been unearthed.
The ‘stereographs’ – an early form of three-dimensional photograph – depict a family standing in front of Ordsall Hall’s main gate, where the pedestrian gate is now, on Ordsall Lane.
They are believed to have been taken by a nineteenth-century tenant at Salford’s Tudor mansion.
There are also images inside Ordsall Hall’s Star Chamber, which houses the Radclyffe Bed, understood to date from the 1570s and the earliest surviving example of this type of furniture.
They are thought to portray the Markendale family, tenants at Ordsall Hall, as early as the 1830s.
The Markendales did live at Ordsall Hall from 1814 to 1871, but little is known of their life.
John Markendale, who worked as a butcher by trade, was a tenant of the Hall from 1815.
He was an exceptionally early photography enthusiast and adopted it from its very beginning.
Photography in its current form was not commerically available or practical until at least 1839.
The Markendale skin and hide company was still in operation on Regent Road close to Water Street abbattoir until the early 1980’s.
Ordsall Hall’s Museum Supervisor, Kim Hutson, stumbled across the images and posted them up on Facebook today, Tuesday 11 August.
There are thought to be more than 10 of the images locked away for safekeeping in the city’s collections.
The earliest camera image of Salford is widely accepted to be an shot of the former Salford Town Hall at Bexley Square, off Chapel Street in central Salford on the route towards Manchester.
It was taken by an unknown photographer in May 1856 and shows the Crimean War ‘Peace Celebrations’, proclaiming the end of the war.
In the foreground are men in top hats and ladies in full dress, while in the background a large painting hangs from the front portico of the Town Hall, lit by gas burners.
Above the building fly the flags of France, Turkey, Sardinia and Russia, with Britain in the middle.
You can watch SalfordOnline.com’s exclusive access documentary series underground the iconic former Salford Town Hall here:
Kim told SalfordOnline.com: I have seen the Bexley Square photograph and I knew that we had some very early photographs in our collections taken by John Markendale.”
But the 1830s tag is an estimate at best?
“Going from the period that he was a tenant at Ordsall Hall, and also a pioneer in early photography it’s possible they may predate the Bexley Square image,” said Kim.
If true, it would be a remarkable find which would radically alter what we think we know about Salford photography and the history of the city.
Stereographs are two almost identical photographs placed side by side on a piece of cardboard. Also known as stereograms, they were effectively the nineteenth-century predecessor of the Polaroid photograph.
When viewed through a piece of equipment known as a stereoscope, the image appears to be three-dimensional.
At the time, for members of the public, they would have been an incredible 3D optical illusion.
Collections Manager at Salford Museum & Art Gallery Peter Ogilvy was more circumspect, telling SalfordOnline.com: “I would hesitate to say that these are the earliest images of Salford.
“More research needed into both the family and the photographs before I would commit to a statement like that.”
SalfordOnline.com is going to see these images first-hand on Wednesday 12 August and our research will continue into what could blow out of the water everything we think we know about the history of photography and the history of the city.