Brislington Community Museum

Red House, The

This publisher is an enigma. So far only one of their postcards has come to light and it says it was "Published by The Red House, Sandy Park Road." It calls for the use of a half-penny stamp, so it was printed before the postage went up to a penny on 3 June 1918. But that's all we know.

The most obviously red building in that street is probably The Sandringham. Perhaps its managers were tempted by the profits to be had from postcard sales. Other postcards from the Edwardian era show its name prominently displayed as "The BUBL Sandringham Hotel" (BUBL being the abbreviation for Bristol United Breweries Ltd). As at any hotel, there should have been a regular supply of lonely travelling salesmen and other visitors happy to spend some time mentally connecting with loved ones, writing home.

The postcard itself depicts a rural idyll in rich lithographic colour. Its title "Holy Meads, Brislington." sets the tone, and the scene shows a pleasant path curving through a closely cropped pasture to a gate that leads to the village where the parish church tower rises serenely flanked by trees above a hedgerow. It could almost go without saying that the sky is blue and the greenery is lifted into spring colours with plenty of yellows and pinks.

Very unusually for a locally published postcard, this has been printed using a process called halftone (where black ink is deposited in characteristic tiny dots). Halftone is a robust printing method that can easily out-perform the collotype process where the printing plates tend to wear out sooner and need to be replaced, adding to the long-term costs. So it seems this was intended to be produced in the mid to high hundreds of copies, if not more.

At a glance, the picture is an exuberant rustic delight but, on closer inspection, the colour is off register, and the title and credit texts are largely illegible as they're printed among the boughs of the trees. It's a curious mixture of bold artistic vision, and muddled technical execution. This same printer (to judge by their distinctively decorative fonts etc) actually produced several other halftone postcards of Brislington, and they're impeccably produced. What went awry here is simply another of the mysteries that surrounds this publisher. At any rate, it's certainly a memorable postcard, and funnily enough a personal favourite (if reviewers are permitted favourites).

Hopefully more postcards by Red House will be found, shedding more light on their worthy yet, so far, eccentric portfolio.

Ken Taylor

Regrettably we can't exhibit this postcard until either the identity of the photographer is known (and perhaps also the copyright status of their picture), or we secure funds to apply for a batch of orphan works licences.