Photographs give a special insight into 1930s Wearside

A long lost photograph album has just been discovered '“ and it has opened a window on the leisure-time activities of 1930s Wearside.

Wednesday, 2nd May 2018, 10:06 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd May 2018, 10:11 am
All dressed up for a family wedding.

Sunderland Antiquarian Society has been donated the album which was once in the possession of the Eaton family who lived in Vale Street in Eden Vale.

Its contents are a fascinating insight into a time gone by and Antiquarian Society member Norman Kirtlan told us more.

Having fun at the seaside.

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“The family were obviously quite well off and as well as family occasions, holidays at the seaside and back yard pursuits were snapped and stored for posterity,” he explained.

“In common with most folk who lived in Sunderland at that time, weddings and family occasions were often celebrated at home, with the back lane offering ample space for the guests to have the big moment captured on film.”

Another photograph showed two family members trying out a motor bike.

Norman added: “The family Box Brownie was also great for snapping those exciting moments when the town’s young ladies chose the thrill of speed over more sedentary pastimes, and here our intrepid girls show they are made of gritty stuff as they pose on board a powerful motor cycle.

Trying out a motor bike.

“Whether or not the machine made it out of the yard is debatable, but the driver certainly seems as though she means business.”

But the most telling of the images is the one at the seaside, said Norman.

“Of all the photographs in the album, it is the holiday snaps at the sea front that really give us an insight into life with the fun-loving family,” said Norman.

Here, the family have not only pitched their tent on the Marsden sands, but have decorated it and laid out a dinner table ready for lunch.

“Certainly no sandy seaside sandwiches for this lot. And if there is any doubt about the hedonistic attitudes of our 1930s family, then this photograph will dispel any concerns,” said Norman.

“Playing up for the camera, Mr Eaton, smoking two cigarettes at the same time it would seem, feigns an assault upon his colleague.

“Obviously unaware of the dangers of smoking, Mrs Eaton seems to be relishing her cigarette.

“It is amazing to think that a long forgotten album can bring a family back to life almost eighty years after their summer on the sands.”

It is one example of the excellent reminders of times gone by which can be found at the Sunderland Antiquarian Society.

Sunderland Antiquarian Society was founded on November 21, 1899, and held its first meeting on February 1, 1900.

Since then it has continued to serve the cause of local history in and around Sunderland.

For those who are interested in visiting its premises, Sunderland Antiquarian Society is based at 6 Douro Terrace.

It encourages interest in the history of Sunderland and its region.

The Society holds extensive archives which have been amassed and donated over the past century by the people of Sunderland and these are available to members and visitors.

However, for those who would like to get more involved, membership is open to all.

The society has regular newsletters, published booklets and holds meetings each month.

Two are on the way soon.

The society’s annual meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 15, and will be followed by a talk titled Sunderland’s Superb Sailing Ships which will be given by Jack Curtis.

Then on Tuesday, June 19, Norman Kirtlan will give a talk titled Sunderland in Rare Photographs and Film.

The monthly illustrated talks take place in the main hall at Thornhill School and start at 7.30pm. Doors open at 7pm and all are welcome. The talks are £1 to members with a £2 cover charge for visitors.

The season of talks start again in September and will be held on the third Tuesday of each month.

To find out more about the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, people can visit its base which is in Douro Terrace, and is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 9.30am and noon.

People can also visit the society’s website at

Wearside Echoes would also love to hear from anyone wanting to share their own items of nostalgia.