Wearside Echoes: Haul of 100-year-old mystery photos found

MYSTERY MEN: Do you know where this was taken, or who the men were?
MYSTERY MEN: Do you know where this was taken, or who the men were?
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A RETIRED electrician is hoping a haul of mystery photos may help spark happy memories.

John Christie, 74, discovered the box of glass slides after taking over a former washing machine shop in Villette Road more than 20 years ago.

MYSTERY PEOPLE:  Do you know where this was taken?

MYSTERY PEOPLE: Do you know where this was taken?

“There was a lot of rubbish lying around the premises and, as I was clearing it up, I came across the slides. They intrigued me, and I’ve kept them ever since,” he said.

“There are several shots of people, as well as a building, bridge and ship. I have no idea where or when they were taken, but perhaps they will bring back memories for someone.”

John, who was born near Edinburgh just before the Second World Wa, met his Sunderland-born wife-to-be, Myra, while on holiday in Eyemouth, Northumberland, during the 1950s.

The couple went on to marry in 1959, settling in Scotland at first. But Myra grew homesick and the pair decided to seek a fresh start in her home town.

MYSTERY BUILDING: MYSTERY MEN: Do you know where this was taken?

MYSTERY BUILDING: MYSTERY MEN: Do you know where this was taken?

“We ended up in Leechmere Road in about 1962 and never left,” said John. “I was an electrician by trade and found it easy to get a job, as there was so much industry here at the time.”

John worked for a firm for several years, before deciding to branch out on his own. It was in the late 1980s, or early 1990s, that he bought the Villette Road shop from a nephew.

“It was one of the older shops in the street, quite close to the post office. It was while I was doing it up that I found the photos. I was quite fascinated with them,” he said.

“We traded for a few years as Christie Electrical and, when I sold up, I brought the photos home. Where they originated from I really don’t know. They were just lying around.”

It is believed that the slides may date from the turn of the 20th century – but could be even older. They are contained in a box which states “Open only in ruby light.”

“I have never had the slides made into photos, so it is interesting to see what they really look like. If anyone has links with the pictures, I’m happy for them to have copies,” said John.

**Do these pictures bring back memories for you? Contact Sarah Stoner on sarah.stoner@northeast-press.co.uk or write to: Sarah Stoner, Sunderland Echo, Pennywell, Sunderland, SR4 9ER.

Sidebar: Model family

LOCAL historian Pam Tate is appealing for help in tracing the family of a Wearside model maker.

“I have been contacted by a lady who is hoping to find out more about a chap called Chris Crawford, who was born in 1842. Hopefully readers will be able to help,” said Pam.

Records show that Chris married his sweetheart, Elizabeth Ann Baker, at Deptford. The father of his new bride, George Tate, was a mariner who had married Margaret Tate in 1816.

“Chris developed a successful family business making scale models of ships. Some were sold as rather exclusive toys, while others were bought by shipping enthusiasts,” said Pam.

“Several were displayed at local shipyard offices, including nine at Doxford’s, another was shipped off to Battersea Power station and others were exported to Japan and USA.

“There is a story that the entire Crawford workforce were sent on a Top Secret job to Belfast during the First or Second World War. That is very intriguing – I wonder what it was.”

Despite the world-wide success of his business, however, two of Chris Crawford’s grandsons decided to strike out on their own in the 1930s – rather than join the family firm.

“One of those grandsons, the father of the lady who has contacted me, married and moved to Essex, but remained in touch with the Paxton family in Pallion until the 1950s,” said Pam.

“A lady called Mrs R Metcalfe apparently inherited the business, but I don’t know much more than that. If anyone is related to Chris Crawford, I would appeal for them to get in touch.”

** Pam can be contacted on: 0191 567 2438.