The Python Gallery in Middlehaven hosted the launch of the new ‘Memories of Middlesbrough’ Exhibition on Saturday 21st January, showcasing photographs of the town from bygone days and bringing memories flooding back for dozens of visitors. Founded in 2012, the popular Facebook group has tens of thousands of members, has already exhibited at the Dorman Museum and even produced its own calendars. Dr Tosh Warwick, Middlesbrough Council’s Heritage Development Officer attended the event to encourage visitors to share memories of Middlesbrough Town Hall as part of the #MyTownHall HLF project and also caught up with Memories of Middlesbrough founder Sue Martin to find out more about the group and exhibition.
Approaching The Python Gallery, visitors are met with a combination of Middlesbrough past, present and future. The venue is surrounded by iconic buildings dating back to the days of the ‘ Ironopolis’ . A stone’ s throw away from the Gallery, housed in Royal Middlehaven House, is Middlesbrough’ s first (Old) Town Hall, dating back to 1846. Other illustrious neighbours include the former offices of the town’ s early founders at Queen’ s Terrace, Henry Bolckow and John Vaughan’ s former Cleveland Buildings residence (Plenary), and the adjacent Cleveland Club (Gibson House, Boho Four), all recently refurbished and adorned with newly-installed blue heritage plaques produced as part of the HLF-supported Tees Transporter Bridge Trail. Looking to the north east towards the recently renovated Tees Transporter Bridge, there are further signs of regeneration in the form of the new Transporter Park opened in 2016.Inside the venue, the TP Coffee House and Café caters for the local businesses, tourists and visitors to the various exhibitions held in the gallery.
The ‘ Memories of Middlesbrough’ Exhibition brings together work showcasing some of the stand out images which have featured on the popular Facebook group. The growth of the Memories of Middlesbrough’ s page and group, founded in 2012, has been phenomenal.In less than five years the group boasts some 30,000 ‘ likes’ and members, an expansion outpacing even the famously rapid growth of the Victorian‘ boom town’ on which its content is focused. Members includes thousands still living in and around the town, but also those no longer based in Middlesbrough scattered across the globe as far afield as Australia, South Africa and U.S.A.
It is clear the exhibition and group is about more than just old photos of the town, with Sue explaining her inspiration for Memories of Middlesbrough was her own love of the old buildings, her own photos of the buildings that were still in the town, and a realisation of some of those that no longer exist. There is a sense of a community coming together to reminisce, share and showcase their memories of the town in bygone years, with the founder eager to point out that the Exhibition is the result of contributions from members of the Facebook group.
The ‘ Memories of Middlesbrough’ Exhibition reflects the wide-ranging interests of the group, spanning instantly recognisable landmarks including the Transporter Bridge, the Old Town Hall (featured in Sue’ s favourite image in the Gallery) and Middlesbrough Town Hall, to those lesser known parts of Middlesbrough’ s past. Middlesbrough Library, Lowcocks lemonade, the Dolls Hospital, Dorman Museum, children playing on an abandoned car in Cannon Street and the cannon in Albert Park all sit alongside each other to provide fascinating snapshots of Middlesbrough’ s heritage. The images prompt memories and exchanges amongst those in the gallery, just as the online platform has done so successfully.Visitors share coffee with new acquaintances and friends made as a result of membership of the group.
There are hopes for further Memories of Middlesbrough developments to “keep people enjoying it” and following on from the their stint at The Python Gallery (21st to 28th January), the photos will be added to an existing display at the Dorman Museum which will continue up to Easter.
Sue Martin can be heard in discussion with Tosh Warwick at the launch of the ‘ Memories of Middlesbrough’ Exhibition.
Listen as Sue Martin introduces herself and explains what Memories of Middlesbrough is all about:
Listen as Sue Martin discusses the exhibition and the motivation behind Memories of Middlesbrough:
By Tosh Warwick