A fascinating photographic record of the medieval, Georgian and Victorian streets of Gateshead, showing views unseen since the 1950s, goes on show in Gateshead next month (February 3, 2015).
The exhibition, entitled ‘Secret Streets’, will be the first time that many of these images will have been seen as a collection in public.
The photographs were all taken at the request of Gateshead’s Medical Officer for Health and Chief Sanitation Officer, who inspected hundreds of homes following the introduction of the Housing Act in 1930.
The act led to the clearance of more slum housing in Britain than at any time previously, and prompted the building of 700,000 new homes.
A committee was formed by Gateshead Council to oversee the inspection and demolition of its slum housing, much of which was situated to the west and east of the Swing Bridge on Gateshead Quayside.
The committee arranged for careful photographic records to be kept and it is these which form the bulk of the collection.
The result is a fascinating photographic record of medieval, Georgian and Victorian streets and buildings which by the 1950s were mostly all demolished.
“It’s clear from health reports in Gateshead Local Studies Collection that conditions in these areas were dire,” says Councillor Peter Mole, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure.
“Sanitation was medieval at best, and industrial and human waste was quite often just thrown into the street.
“There is no question that, when it came, the massive improvement programme was certainly necessary though it did result in the loss of much of old Gateshead.
“Fortunately, this remarkable collection of photographs provides a clear snapshot of what life must have been like in the long-forgotten slums on Gateshead’s riverside.”
‘Secret Streets’ is open from Tuesday, 3 February to Saturday, 28 March at St Mary’s Heritage Centre and admission is free.
The centre is open from 10am to 4pm, but is closed on Mondays.
An audio slideshow of images taken from the ‘Secret Streets’ exhibition, accompanied by an interview with the exhibition’s curator, is available on the Gateshead Council YouTube channel.