Hello, I'm Paul Perry. My fascination for old photographs of Jarrow goes back to when I was a young boy of nine. I have vivid memories of viewing an exhibition which depicted the condition of the buildings in Jarrow during the 1950s. The sooty deposits on their blackened fascias were the result of many years of heavy engineering. The display of photographs also portrayed the effects this pollution had upon the health of the town's 30,000 inhabitants. This experiment resulted in Jarrow being chosen as one of the first towns in the country to enjoy a smokeless zone status.
It is only in modern times, as we look back at the photographs of yesteryear, we realise the importance of the blackened buildings: undisputed evidence of the town's prosperity during the days of plenty, when unemployment was a word seldom used by the people of Jarrow, courtesy of the Palmer shipbuilding empire which, in its heyday, employed no less than 10,000 men, women and boys, and for 80 years was the backbone and lifeblood of the town. It is many years since Palmers’ gates finally closed, but with two million tons of shipping behind it, Jarrow is still a proud town and will enjoy a strong sense of achievement for a long time to come.
After fulfilling an ambition to become a commercial photographer in 1966, eight old photographs of the town found their way to the studio I operated from in the town centre. These simple picture postcards brought back fond memories of the display I saw as a young boy of nine. How many more of these little gems might there be hidden in shoe boxes in attics? This fascination was to get the better of me. In 1967 I started seriously collecting photographs of my hometown, with a view to staging an exhibition. After a four year search I had managed to locate a further 75 pictures. Encouraged by this, I was able to stage a small exhibition in 1971, much to the delight of the townsfolk. A turning point came the same year when it was my good fortune to secure a collection of photographs from mushroom farmer and local historian James Hunter Carr. Hunter Carr recorded the changing face of the town with a simple camera during the 1940s and 50s.
This was to swell my growing collection to in excess of 1000 images. The subsequent years surpassed all expectations, and to date I have managed to amass some 17,000 photographs of the town and neighbouring Hebburn. This inspired me to write a number of books chronicling the history of the town, all of which are lavishly illustrated with photographs from my collection.
It gives me great pleasure to share some of these images with you, and hopefully bring back happy memories to anyone who is familiar with the town.
There was a time when there was not a town called Jarrow; fields streams and riverbanks were all that existed. Eventually, settlements were raised in the area. Without doubt, the most memorable of the early settlements was an order of monks at the monastery at Donmouth, as it was referred to then. This was home to Jarrow’s most celebrated resident, the Venerable Bede: monk, scholar, historian, and very probably one of the most remarkable men this country has ever produced, who was responsible for writing the oft-referred Northumbrian Chronicles, to one of the few learned works to survive from those days. At that time Jarrow was a centre of learning, a beacon of light in a dark age. If all that Jarrow had to offer history was a monk and a book then it would still be worthy of note, but Jarrow had so much more to give. The proximity of mineral resources and water-borne transportation gave rise to the period of industrialisation which so dominated the life of the town from the eighteenth century to recent times. The shipyards, steelworks, coal mines, chemical plants, and the fuel storage tanks, have all in turn contributed towards the growth and wealth of the town.
When talking of Jarrow it is not always possible to talk of light and life. No work which ever purports in any way to tell the story of the town can ignore the hardship and privation suffered by its people during the interwar years of the great depression. Subject to a greater rate of unemployment than any other borough in the land, Jarrow came to epitomise the unhappy state of affairs endured by so much of industrial Britain during that period.
Nothing, depression and wars included, lasts forever, and the post war years saw a marked improvement in the well-being of the town and its people. The improvement took many forms: new schools, public houses, recreational facilities, a state of the art shopping complex, and of course, the re-housing of many thousands of residents to Jarrow’s own garden suburb, Primrose.
There have been other changes too. In strict legal terms the borough of Jarrow no longer exists, amalgamated in 1974 into the much larger borough of South Tyneside. The working base of the town has undergone equally radical alteration. Little of the lucrative heavy industry of old remains; instead, many would consider Jarrow a dormitory town, home to the office and shop personnel of the commercial enterprises in the surrounding area.
Through the days of triumph and tragedy, the outstanding feature of Jarrow has been its people. Famous writers, singers, local characters and villains have grown up in the town, but it is the ordinary Jarovian possessing a rare mixture of honesty, decency and good humour that has given the town its unique personality. In return all are marked forever by the town and have a genuine affection for it and proud to be called Jarra Lads and Lasses.
So let’s take one more backwards glance down the years, into the school yards and churches, the factories and the shops, the homes and hospitals. Let us meet the men and women, our mothers and fathers perhaps, or even ourselves in younger days. You don’t need your hat or your coat; you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home. With the magic of technology and a little imagination, you will be able to travel back in time once more, along the streets and down the back lanes of your town, my town, our town: Jarrow.
A nostalgic tour of Jarrow illustrated by old photographs of the town.
Old photographs of Jarrow married carefully with corresponding images of today.More
Jarrow as it was, and as it is today. Pure nostalgia for the enthusiast.More