The History of Bamforth & Co. Ltd & Where it is Now

What is Bamforth & Co?

Bamforth & Co was a business that worked in publishing, illustrating, and film. Based in Holmfirth, they were known for their pioneering work in cinema and the famous saucy seaside postcard.

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The beginning of Bamforth & Co

During the 1850’s, James Bamforth left school. He realised that he’d developed a great interest in photography.

His family owned their own business of painting and decorating. This is said to have encouraged his love of painting.

James was slightly different to his father and wasn’t sure about following in his footsteps. He preferred to paint scenic backcloths rather than walls and doors.


Bamforth Slides

James Bamforth, Bamforth & Co. Ltd.
James Bamforth, Bamforth & Co. Ltd.

By 1870, James had developed his passions and turned them into a business. He started to produce slides for ‘magic lanterns’ which would be taken around the village halls.

One of his five sons, called Harry, went to New York to set up an office for their developing company. Janey on the other hand, one of his two daughters, assisted with props and wardrobe.

In 1898, James Bamforth partnered up with the Riley brothers. They were based in Bradford and had been making films for two years.

This partnership became known as RAB films. This lasted until 1900 and within that time the team had produced 14 short films.During this phase, James had developed the technique of film editing. This is evident in his short film “Kiss in the Tunnel” which can be viewed on the Yorkshire Film Archive’s website.

Bamforth Picture Postcards

By 1900, the lantern slides had been developed. They had been turned into picture postcards.

Many of these early cards featured an illustrated scene along with a single verse of a poem or hymn. This also led to the hobby of deltiology as people tried to collect the full set.

These saucy seaside postcards were first made in 1910. They were produced to be sold in both Yorkshire and Lancash*re seaside resorts.

Bamforth Hymn Post Card
Bamforth Hymn post card

Bamforth Silent Movies

In 1913, Bamforth decided to restart his filmmaking business. To begin with, this continued to be successful at first.

By 1915, they had an excess of 100 silent movies. Surprisingly, this surpassed Hollywood in both quantity and quality.

Unfortunately, this was stopped due to escalations in the First World War which led them to halt production. Sadly this was not continued after the war ended.

The height of Bamforth’s fame

However, despite not continuing with film, Bamforth continued producing postcards. They quickly became the market leader in Britain.

By the end of the First World War, they were producing 20 million postcards a year. During the 1960’s they had become the world leaders and were at the height of their fame.

The business is most famous for their comic scenes. These often featured a big lady and her short, bald and skinny henpecked husband, ‘unattractive’ skinny girls trying to find a boy, courting couples, and the comedy favourite ‘the mother-in-law’.They produced topical cards featuring popular jokes or catchphrases from radio and TV. Also, there were commemorative cards for special events and a whole series of scenic cards.

Bamforth having my annual
Bamforth – Having my annual bath card. (

Where is Bamforth & Co Now?

By the 1980’s, these postcards were no longer fashionable. When Derek Bamforth was ready to retire, he decided to sell his business to Scarborough based E T W Dennis & Sons Ltd.

After the takeover, Dennis decided to continue producing these postcards. They did this under the Bamforth name as well as their own.

Dennis & Sons folded in 2001. As a result, the Bamforth & Co Ltd name, along with the rights to 50,000 designs, were bought by Leeds based Ian Wallace.

In 2010, Wallace decided to celebrate the centenary of the saucy seaside postcards. Wallace relaunched the series in association with Jane Evans Licensing Consultancy.

The Picturedrome Cinema in Holmfirth features a museum of Bamforth’s famous postcards. The museum celebrates a true staple of Yorkshire summertime.