Trust’s Official Launch at County Hall, Morpeth

Cllrs. Seymour and Watson, Cameron Robertson, Sir Philip Mawer

The Trust, started during Covid, has finally been able to hold a public launch – with not one but two events on the 26th June 2023.

The Northumberland Archives Charitable Trust marked the occasion with celebrations of its work to date, raising money to save and analyse historical records, documents and images for future generations.

Northumberland Archives holds a wealth of information about the county’s history, its people and places, and everyday life in days gone by.

The Photocentre collection is a fascinating assortment of images taken by professional photographers the Smith family of Berwick from 1951 to 2012, when they retired. It holds more than a million negatives, including glass plates.

The images show the whole spectrum of life from North Northumberland to the Scottish borders – everything from passport photos to babies, weddings, the ‘Tweedmouth Salmon Queens’, celebrities of the day, including The Beetles, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and racing driver, Jim Clark. who won two Formula One World Championships, in 1963 and 1965.

Meanwhile the Blyth to the Future project has shown a completely different use for archive materials, involving scores of youngsters from four schools, who have learned about the history of their hometown and used their considerable imagination and computer assisted design to plan a new future for it.

Sir Philip Mawer, Chairman of the Trust, attended both events along with Councillor Jeff Watson, Cabinet Member for Culture, Heritage and Libraries.

The Trust was the brainchild of council officer and Head of Archives, Sue Wood, backed by her head of service, Karen Lounton and Linda Bankier Senior Archivist, based at Berwick.

Despite its somewhat ‘under-the radar’ starting point the Trust has already raised more than £70,000 towards helping the vital work of the archives team.

Sir Philip said: “Not many good things came out of lockdown, but the Trust was one of them.

“Northumberland has a rich history reflected in the castles, churches, great houses, mines and harbours that are part of the landscape, but a lot more is found in the maps, deeds, photographs and documents stored by our Archive Service.

“History has always been a fascination for me. It is about finding the gems and capturing the stories that relate to our community and how it has evolved.

“There is a huge outreach element to the work of the archives team – it’s not just cataloguing and documenting. The past and the developments throughout the 18th and 19th century in terms of agricultural and industrial progress are very relevant to how we live our lives today.”

Councillor Watson said: “It is hard to talk to anyone about the archives materials we hold without getting caught up in truly amazing stories behind it all. Inspirational tales of bravery, innovation, and honour.

“Of the county’s historic families who helped the UK become an industrial powerhouse and the happiness and sorrow woven into the everyday lives of our predecessors.

“It is so rewarding to see the work of the Blyth schoolchildren who have loved being immersed in the history of their town and learned skills that they will carry with them forever.”

The Photocentre collection is being catalogued by Cameron Robertson, who works for two days a week on the project. The Trust secured funding for his work via a grant from the Community Foundation, Tyne, Wear and Northumberland.

A selection of the photos is on show at County Hall, Morpeth, until Friday, July 14 and the public can pop along to see them during opening hours.

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