Carey collection turns back Teesside’s clock

A unique collection of photographs revealing Teesside life at the turn of the 20th century is being made available for the public to view for the first time.

The Carey Photographic Collection is made up of around 300 images taken by leading councillor and businessman, Alderman George Absalom Carey, who founded a mutual society and a personal credit service that are both still thriving well over a century later.

It includes many photographs never been seen outside of the Carey family before, including images of old Linthorpe, local landmarks and a mystery camp attended by hundreds of local people.

But some of the most fascinating images show the way working people lived in St Hilda’s and other town centre areas before the slum clearances of the latter part of the century.

As part of his council role, George accompanied the town’s medical officer of health Dr Dingle during the 1920s and took photographs for a report they presented to the government on the appalling conditions.

Other images show George’s travels around the country to research plans for new Middlesbrough estates such as Grove Hill, billed as “homes fit for heroes” after World War I.

The collection was saved from the skip by current Careys’ chief executive Phil Carey, George Absalom’s great-great-grandson, during the modernisation of the firm’s then Dickensian offices in Kensington Road, Middlesbrough, in 1997 when he was 13.

“I kept them in my bedroom on glass slides and forgot about them, even when I did a module on North East History for my degree at Newcastle University,” says Phil.

“After I graduated I told one of the most eminent North-East historians, Professor Norman McCord, and he went ballistic – he couldn’t believe I hadn’t made use of them!

“He put the slides onto Kodachrome and I showed them at agents’ meetings over the years. Some of the older agents knew many of the people in the pictures, but unfortunately, we don’t know who many of them are any more.”

Phil recently converted the slides into jpegs to enable more people to enjoy an insight into the town’s history.

As well as the old photos, there are a further 200 images of “magic lantern” slides George used to put on projection displays for groups including local temperance societies and political gatherings.

Local historian Ian Stubbs described the collection as “absolutely fascinating”, picking out several images of particular importance.

“They’re fantastic and many of them I’ve never seen before, which is brilliant,” he said.

His standouts include a slide inscribed with the words: “Don’t forget each vote at the Newport Ward Guardians’ election given to Mrs Hansen means a helping hand to a some aged, sick or a widow or orphan.”

“Marion Coates Hansen was a feminist and suffragette and only the second woman Labour councillor in Middlesbrough after the First World War,” said Ian.

He also singled out pictures of the old Middlesbrough Union Workhouse, just off St Barnabas Road, and the Bolckow, Vaughan & Co ironworks, on Vulcan Street.

But his favourite is a photograph of the George Stephenson’s Locomotion No 1, the first to haul passengers on a public railway, which is now displayed in Darlington Head of Steam Railway Museum but was mounted at the end of a platform at the town’s Bank Top Station from 1892 to 1975.

“That’s an absolutely fantastic image, I love it,” he enthused.

The images will be added at over the next few weeks.