Parr’s Pubs: New Photograph Collection

In contrast to the many Victorian photographs that we blogged about last year, we’re pleased to share the news that the library has expanded its photographic portfolio with a collection of photographs from 1983. There are twenty four, signed, gelatin silver prints by photographer Martin Parr, which detail scenes from Yates’s Wine Lodges in England.

Martin Parr, via Wikimedia Commons
Martin Parr, via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Parr is an award winning British photographer, photo-journalist, artist and curator with an international reputation.  Over five decades his radical approach to social documentary photography has made a substantial contribution to photographic expression in the UK and beyond.

Although Parr originates from the South of England he can also be claimed as a Manchester Man and son of the North.  From 1970-73 he was a student at Manchester Polytechnic and throughout the 1970s and 1980s he lived in Greater Manchester, on the Wirral and in West Yorkshire.  Parr’s profound engagement with Northerners, Northern-ness and Northern places has been a recurring theme throughout his career as demonstrated in this photo-story, Yates’s Wine Lodges, England, 1983.

These images are shot mainly in Northern towns and cities and this collection examines the culture of one of Britain’s oldest pub chains.  Yates’s was established in Oldham, Lancashire by Peter and Simon Yates in 1884. Yates’s Wine Lodges spread nationwide, but retained a stronghold in the north of England with its headquarters in Manchester.

Martin Parr signature from the reverse of VPH.24.1
Martin Parr signature from the reverse of VPH.24.1

It is interesting to look at these images with a glance towards our other collections and what they say about the social mores and attitudes from the era when Yates’s was established.  For example, the image below is from a nineteenth-century Temperance Movement cuttings book that the library holds.  The illustrations depict the physical and moral consequences of drinking alcohol and Yates’s motto of ‘moderation is true temperance’ is perhaps a nod to those values. It will be fascinating to see what our readers feel our new photographs reveal about the pub culture of the 1980s.

Temperance Movement Cuttings Book, Ref: JRL1410614
Temperance Movement Cuttings Book, Ref: JRL1410614

By the 1980s, when Parr was working on this project, the firm had become synonymous with what the Manchester Evening News reporters described as images of a ‘smoky, dimly-lit, male-dominated environments more in keeping with Victorian England’. These are precisely the qualities that Parr has captured in his elegiac, black and white evocations.  Despite the extensive refurbishment, rebranding and financial success of Yates’s in the 1990s, and periods of subsequent rebranding campaigns, this image still persists.

Parr’s photographs form part of a broader, more substantial, sociological shift that plots the demise of British pub culture which has resulted in the closure of over 21,000 public houses to date.  They embody, in visual form, an account of a national trend by showing its impact on particular people and places at a particular historical moment in time.  It tells a national story in a Northern accent.

Details and descriptions of these images can be found on Library Search.

All images unless otherwise stated are copyright of the University of Manchester and can be used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike Licence. With thanks to the Heritage Imaging Team.

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