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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

David R. Williams Postcard Collection

D/DW 1/4(52) view looking down New Elvet, 1910

D/DW 1/4(52) view looking down New Elvet, 1910

Exhibition at Record Office

An interesting recent donation to the Durham County Record Office is the David R. Williams Postcard Collection. The late David Williams was head of Film and Television studies at Durham University's Bede College, where he had lectured since 1964. This extensive collection was clearly an important part of his life.

The majority of the 1200 cards in the collection have images of Durham City. Most of the photographically produced cards show some interesting detail of the Durham townscape, and some of the printed cards also stand out as being especially clear or showing unique detail.

The majority of the cards in this collection were made around 1905-1910, though it is possible in some cases that the image used is much older, as card companies were happy to recycle good pictures for many years.

The majority of these cards are unused, though some carry messages. They are chiefly commercial souvenir postcards but some appear to be personal photographs printed onto a postcard.

Many of the cards were produced by the major national companies: Hartmann ; Valentine's; Francis Frith; Raphael Tuck; A&G Taylor; Rapid; Wrench; Judges; Photochrom; Walter Scott; W.H. Smith - Kingsway; etc. Others were produced by local printers: Bailes (Durham); Wilkinson (Durham); Auty (Tynemouth); Johnston - Monarch Series (Gateshead); Phillimore; Edis (Durham); Brittain and Wright (Stockton-on-Tees), Grant and Lewis (Newcastle); Ruddock (Newcastle); Lilywhite; Mason; P.T. series.

The collection has been digitized and thumbnail images can be seen within our online catalogue database. There are many other postcards within the Record Office strong rooms (search our online catalogue database for a place name plus the word postcard) but this collection is remarkable for its focus and for the wide range of styles of image included. Copies of images can generally be purchased from us for £6.

We have used a small selection of the images in a current exhibition at the Record Office, showing views of areas of the city which have undergone significant change and which are likely to see further development in the near future.

D/DW 1/4(52) is an unusual view looking down New Elvet towards the Three Tuns Hotel at the bottom. All of these houses have since been demolished and while their footprints are known from large scale ordnance survey plans it would be impossible to know about their appearance without this photograph. This was not a particularly prosperous street so it is unusual for it to have been shown in a postcard; the bulk of the collection consists of views of the Cathedral and Castle. Another bonus with this view is that the photograph has been taken in the middle of a normal day, showing people and some vehicles: the traffic is not at all heavy although this was part of the Great North Road.

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