The Alnwick Victorians: Fascinating photographs reveal town life in the 1800s

Andrew and Madeline Gray.Andrew and Madeline Gray.
Andrew and Madeline Gray.
A striking collection of over 100 rare photographs from the archives of Bailiffgate Museum and Gallery are the latest to be uploaded to its special collections website.

The images are likely to be some of the first such portraits ever taken in Alnwick.

As photography was a new and expensive technology in the mid-1800s, they mainly feature men and women from prominent families including local businessmen, shopkeepers, clergy and teachers.

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One of the most famous sitters is photo number 99, George Tate. Described as a ‘man of many talents’, George (1805 -1871) was a draper. He also worked as Alnwick’s postmaster from 1848.

George Tate.George Tate.
George Tate.

He was an active member of the Alnwick Mechanics’ Scientific Institution and published works on topics as diverse as geology, botany, zoology and history. His most famous work is The History of the Borough, Castle and Barony of Alnwick.

One heart-warming photo, number 44, features Andrew and Madeline Gray. Andrew and his bride-to-be, Madeline Burnett were both born in Alnwick in the mid-1830s. Madeline was lady’s maid to Mrs Shafto Orde, wife of the Vicar of St. Michael’s.

Madeline moved to Scotland with the family in 1859. It seems, however, that Andrew followed her there, as they were married by the Reverend Orde in Edinburgh in 1863. Andrew had only one arm and worked as a telegraphist sending Morse code which was a high-paying job in the late 19th century and one of the earliest ‘high-tech’ professions of the modern age.

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Mick Grant, volunteer head of collections at Bailiffgate said: “We are thrilled to make these rare photographs available to everyone.

“We are adding to our collection all the time due to generous donations from local people who want to share their history and heritage.

“We get requests from people around the world researching their families and our website is a great resource from them.”

The website includes the Bailiffgate database of local servicemen who died in the First World War.

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Next summer, the museum will welcome the Vikings to Alnwick following a fantastic response to its appeal for funds to upgrade its CCTV and security systems.

The exhibition, Vikings: Fact & Fiction, is a unique partnership with Jorvik Viking Centre in York.

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