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Can you help unravel the mystery of the Shropshire soldiers’ salute?

By Toby Neal | Market Drayton | North Shropshire nostalgia | Published:

Present... fire!

Soldiers in Market Drayton firing a volley in salute. But what is the occasion?

This wonderful old picture captures a major event in Market Drayton of yesteryear, and is one of those photos that the more you pore over it, the more you get to see.

Those rifles must have made quite a bang. Look, for instance, at the young girl standing in front of the Advertiser office and wearing a boater. Is she putting her fingers in her ears? There's a little boy towards the right as well who appears to be doing the same.

But here is the riddle which you might be able to solve for us. Exactly what is going on?

As what you see is our only clue, we can do a little visual sleuthing. Obviously these soldiers – if they are indeed soldiers, and maybe there is a military expert out there who can identify and date their uniforms – are firing a volley in salute, and it's in an era when the centre of the town centre had cobbles.

Clearly it's a big event which attracted people of all ages, including children perched a little precariously on balconies.

As for the date, some in the crowd are blurred through movement, which suggests a relatively long exposure, which in turn suggests early photography. So perhaps the date is around the late Victorian period.

And the town is decorated, or en fete as they used to say. The wording on the banner strung up to the left includes 'God Bless' and below may start with QUE.

Unfortunately the banner on the right is draped over but one of the words seems to include the letters ...ECOR... and might be OF THE above, giving the full message something like GOD BLESS THE QUEEN OF THE ???ELOR??? or something like that – but that is just a guess.

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The photo is mounted on card and the name of the photographer on the border is R.G. Arnold, which for some knowledgeable Drayton historian should help narrow down a date to the time that a photographer of that name was in business in the town.

Written on the back is "H Bloor, 26 Allen Gardens" but at least that is not a mystery, as we shall explain.

Thank you to Mrs June Edwards, of Farcroft Drive, Market Drayton, for the loan of the picture, which came to her after the death of Miss Sybil Jones of Market Drayton, aged in her 80s, in early 2019.

June's husband George helped Sybil's brother Terry clear the house and Terry gave the historic pictures to June and George.

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Sybil's partner Harold Bloor was a well known local historian who was a collector of many historic Market Drayton photos. Sybil also collected.

Harold was a hairdresser in Market Drayton for 32 years, and in September 1978 when he was 55 he became the new senior caretaker of the Grove School in the town.

He lived in Allen Gardens.

Of course, if you can provide any information about the picture, please drop us a line.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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