Sunderland woman un-veils a family treasure

Hazel Oliver with the christening robe and veil bought for her in 1937 from Ridsons
Hazel Oliver with the christening robe and veil bought for her in 1937 from Ridsons

A family treasure is looking as good today as the day it first made an appearance nearly 80 years ago.

Silksworth woman Hazel Oliver, 79, still has the veil and robe from her christening.

And the 11 shillings and 10 pence outfit from Risdon’s is still in the same pristine condition as it was when she was christened in it at the Independent Methodist Church in Silksworth.

As fate would have it, Hazel is now an active figure at the same church. She is the organist, and the founder of a mother and toddler group.

She said: “My life is wrapped up in that church. I love it and it has lovely people.”

Hazel got in touch with the Echo after we featured the glory days of the Risdon’s store. She told us how the veil and robe had remained in the family for more than seven decades in its original wrapping and she even had the original receipt.

I was christened in it at the Independent Methodist Church and I am the organist there now

Hazel Oliver

But it’s not just Hazel who got to use it for her big day. Both grandsons Ben and Ross Oliver were also christened in the white silk and lace robe, which has stood the test of time.

They came into Hazel’s possession when her mum Lily Tindle died in 1999.

“On the other side of the bill, it has a little girl and it says Risdon’s for baby wear,” said Hazel.

“I was christened in it at the Independent Methodist Church and I am the organist there now.”

Both Hazel and her mum shopped at Risdon’s, which stood on the corner of John Street and High Street West, and it had a reputation for being the best shop in town for baby wear, as well as for prams and cots.

“It had everything. You name it, Risdon’s had it,” said Hazel, who added; “I got my son’s pram there as well.

“You could get long nighties, pyjamas, little matinee coats. It was such a different time,” said Hazel, who is mum to Tracey Potts, 53, and the late Neil Oliver, who died, aged 47, 11 years ago.

Hazel was married to Roland Oliver, who was 74 when he died nine years ago.

She was no stranger to the big stores of Sunderland. Her first job was in Blacketts and she said: “I left school when I was 11 and worked there.”

She moved on to the Co-op chemist at Silksworth and left when she married.

Hazel then got a job at British Home Stores until she had Neil.

She proudly showed the Echo her veil and robe and said: “It has kept its colour really. You would think that it would lose it over the years.”

But is Hazel’s veil and robe the oldest family heirloom in the area?

Get in touch if you know different. Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk.