The short answer is, almost certainly not, but more of that in a moment. One of the nice things about blogging is that people send me emails on topics which they think may interest me. Recently I received scans of a photograph from Peter Edwards, who has the original glass plates. They're from a box dated 1907, which belonged to the Londesborough family, which was elevated to the peerage in the Victorian period. They owned a country house called Londesborough Hall, near Londesborough in the East Riding of Yorkshire, which is where the majority of the photos appear to have been taken. Peter noticed something unusual in this photo, hiding behind a flagpole:
See it? Here's a close-up, after a little playing with the contrast:
And this is a close-up of a close-up (plus contrast-playing) taken by Peter, which unfortunately has some reflections from his camera but makes the identity of the object pretty clear, I think:
That's definitely an airship, and from the shape of the control surfaces at the back, it's one of the early Zeppelins. My guess is that it's one of LZ4, LZ5 or LZ6, which would date the photograph to between 1908 and 1910, but it could be a little earlier. For comparison, here's a contemporary German postcard showing what is probably LZ4 and a Nassau-class dreadnought (from the front cover of my 4th year thesis, but originally from a now-defunct website):
So what was a Zeppelin doing over Londesborough? It wasn't taken during the war, as none of those airships I suggested survived to 1915, and anyway they didn't usually loiter over Yorkshire in broad daylight. Phantom airships were seen over the East Riding, though that was mainly in 1913. And anyway, apart from maybe one incident, I do not believe that the phantom airships corresponded to real airships.
The obvious explanation is that the photo was not taken at Londesborough at all, but in Germany. And I think there is some evidence for this in the photo itself. To my admittedly untrained eye, the rooftops look a bit more urban than rural, and in the lower right it looks like there's a group of power or telephone lines, which again suggests a city or town rather than the countryside at this time. Then there's the flagpole obscuring part of the airship. The flag is hanging loosely, so it can't be seen very clearly, but it looks like a tricolour, and the shades are consistent with the flag of the German Empire (black, white, red). I've seen similar rooftop snapshots of passing airships from the same period before, though usually there are spectators in the foreground gazing at the aerial wonder.
Peter can't confirm that the photo was taken at Londesborough: the rooftops are different although he suggests that there are otherwise some similarities in the architecture. For comparison, here's a photo of Londesborough Hall from his collection:
So my conclusion is that the photo was taken in the late 1900s in Germany, not in Yorkshire. Peter has kindly consented to my posting the image here in the hopes of confirming its origins, so if anyone has any ideas, please comment!
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