We spoke to Paul Ashley, one of the original salespeople who worked for Skyviews, to hear how this unique business started 60 years ago.
“The business had been going for about 15 years when started working at Skyviews and General and I was one of the luckiest young men in the early seventies to be given the opportunity to work for such a unique business.
“The business had been started by a man called Jack Braithwaite, who was taking wedding photos at a hotel called the Craiglands in Ilkley. Jack had competition that day from a man called Ralph Ashley, who was at the wedding to do the same job. Jack said to Ralph: ‘Let me do the wedding and I’ll give you an opportunity to earn some extra money’.
“Jack explained that the work involved selling pictures taken from an aeroplane at the door of people’s houses. Ralph agreed to give it a go and with such a unique product it went down brilliantly.
“After a short time, Jack asked Ralph to set up a sales team in the Leeds area. ‘You get the salesmen and I’ll organise the flying,’ he said. And that was the start of Skyviews!
“In the early days, the business stayed quite small, with about six men travelling around Yorkshire locations with framed pictures of the houses and farms, knocking on doors to offer the households an opportunity to buy an aerial image of their property.
“By the time I got involved, it was in its infancy. I quickly recognised the incredible opportunity to travel all over Scotland, Wales and Ireland to offer householders the opportunity of obtaining something they couldn’t buy anywhere else.
“From there the business started to grow nationally. Such was the interest, that we set up local offices to recruit salespeople that lived in the local areas.
“It was such a success story that eventually Jack Braithwaite was bought out of the business and we took control of the flying side of the business as well of the selling side.
“It has always been a great pleasure to hear people all over the country tell me how proud they are of the pictures taken of their property from the sky. Because we continued to fly and capture images right up to the 1990s, people who had bought an image in the 60s or 70s were always keen to have newer images that showed the changes to the landscape and buildings that had happened over the intervening years.
“Skyviews gave hundreds of salespeople a good income and an enjoyable working life, and for me, it has been an absolute pleasure to be involved in such a wonderful business.
“As a salesman, I enjoyed selling a great product to many thousands of customers, who would always display the photographs in a prominent place on the walls of their houses. Many of our customers passed on our contact details to friends and family and often came back to us to see if we had other views of their homes and properties from a different time period, such as early black-and-white images.
I am proud today to say that Skyviews Archives, a subsidiary of Skyviews and General, is still serving the public. And long may that last!