Photo Donation of the Month: Leslie Priestley’s view of Bury

Just look at how much fun you can have in your workplace before the Health and Safety at Work Act came into force in 1974!

This fabulous photo donation came into us recently and we felt we just had to share it! Who is this fearless duo, where are they and what were they doing so high up above the town of Bury?

Leslie Priestley (L) Tommy Cannon (R) on top of Williams Deacon’s Bank, 1936

Well, the year is 1936 and Leslie Priestley (left) and Tommy Cannon (right) were just doing their job – painting the flagpole on the roof of Williams Deacon’s Bank on Fleet Street (The Rock). What a perfect opportunity to stand on the parapet and strike a perilous pose for the camera. While Leslie was up there he took advantage of his lofty position and captured the following image of The Rock (using his first ever box camera) which he subsequently developed and printed at home.

The Rock taken from Williams Deacon’s Bank, 1936

At the time these pictures were taken both men were working for William J Bolton, Decorators & Signwriters, situated just a short distance away on Union Square. Leslie told his family that painting flagpoles was one of the worst jobs – with a ladder precariously tied to the pole!

William Bolton’s Shop, Union Square, Bury, 1931

Just four years after these photographs were taken, Lesley Priestley left Billy Bolton’s for military service and joined the Royal Artillery. His civil trade was not wasted during this time as he painted lettering on vehicles and produced signs for the army.

After the war Leslie returned to his painting and decorating working now for Fred Grandidge & Sons of Paradise Street, Bury. Not long after, he supplemented the day job by teaching his craft to apprentices three evenings per week at the Municipal School of Art in Bolton.

Leslie Priestley turned out to be a dedicated full-time teacher producing hundreds of examples of graining, marbling, signwriting, heraldry and gilding to be used as teaching aids for his students. We were so pleased to learn that these specimens have been donated to Bolton Museum where they can be preserved for future generations to admire.

You can just tell from Leslie’s proud stance on top of Williams Deacon’s Bank that he was destined for greater things and it was fascinating to read the family’s account of some of his achievements! Like the full-colour and gold-leaf restoration of Bolton’s Coat of Arms at the town hall in 1973; the restoration of the Royal Coat of Arms at Deane Church, Bolton (1976) and his production of a Bolton Coat of Arms presented to Bolton’s twin-town, Le Mans, in July 1973.

Grateful thanks go to Leslie’s daughter, Irene, for donating the photographs and providing us with so much rich history surrounding the life and work of a painter from Bury.

Wendy

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