A UNIQUE collection of images charting the changing face of Wearside since Victorian times has been preserved for the future – by a group dedicated to the past.
Guardianship of the Echo’s photographic archive – which includes thousands of vintage negatives – has been taken on by Sunderland Antiquarian Society ahead of our move to Rainton Bridge.
“The extensive collection is not only a unique part of the Echo’s long and proud history, but a unique record of the history of Sunderland too,” said managing director Stephen Plews.
“We were determined to secure the future of the archive, and keep it in the city.
“We are therefore delighted to announce that Sunderland Antiquarian Society has offered it a safe new home.”
Echo snappers have captured the highs, and lows, of Wearside’s history for more than a century – from the Great Fire of Sunderland in 1898 to FA Cup footballing glory in 1973.
Our archive is truly unique, and it will be preserved for the future at the Antiquarian Society, where a special room dedicated to the collection is to be opened.Stephen Plews, managing director
The demise of the shipyards, Vaux and the mines were all documented over the decades too, as well as street scenes, parties, shops, schools, beaches, pubs, landscapes and river views.
“Our archive is truly unique, and it will be preserved for the future at the Antiquarian Society, where a special room dedicated to the collection is to be opened,” added Stephen.
The roots of Sunderland Antiquarian Society date to November 15, 1899, when notice of plans to form a group were sent out from the office of George W. Bain, of 46 John Street.
It was not until February 1, 1900, however, that the first meeting was actually held, at the Industrial and Provident Society. The Antiquarians were officially launched that day.
Dr Thomas Randell, Rector of Sunderland, was appointed as the first president and its main objective then, as it is today, was to study, collect and research local history.
Dozens of volumes documenting Wearside’s heritage have since been published by members of the group – providing invaluable tools for historians, students and family genealogists.
And the minutes of the Society, complete from 1900, show members have always ‘done their utmost’ to preserve historic buildings too – such as Hylton Castle and Trafalgar Square.
“We are very conscious of our responsibility to both the Echo and the people of the city regarding our role as custodians of this unique archive,” said Society secretary Philip Curtis.
“This vast collection of images illustrate our city’s history throughout the whole of the 20th century, and the society has already started a programme of digitizing the photographs.
“In addition, there are cabinets packed with biographies of Wearsiders, as well as stories on just about every important event that has taken place in Sunderland over the past century.
“These will all be an invaluable source to both current and future local historians – and the society will ensure their conservation.”
l Sunderland Antiquarian Society is based at 6 Douro Terrace. The archive is open to the public on Wednesday and Saturday mornings for research.