Middlesbrough has long been associated with a vibrant pub culture from the town’s early development through to the present day.
Recently, the extensive research and photographic collection of the late Les Bulman, who spent decades researching and capturing snapshots of Middlesbrough’s pubs, clubs and nightclubs, has been gifted to Teesside Archives.
A recent collaboration between Heritage Unlocked, Teesside Archives and Teesside University’s Katy Parsons has now helped digitise and explore some hidden gems in the collection that provides a fascinating insight into Middlesbrough pub and club life in years gone by.
The Teesside University History student said: “I was given the opportunity to work with Heritage Unlocked and Teesside Archives via an Employability module at Teesside University.
“My placement involved working with Teesside Archives, custodians of some of Teesside’s most historic fascinating records.
“These include the recent addition of the Les Bulman Collection which contains hundreds of incredible snapshots and research on community and leisure life in Middlesbrough.
“By digitising this material other researchers and visitors to Teesside Archives will now be able to access this unique material that provides a unique insight into the town’s built history and leisure time in the past.
“In the coming months, a selection of digitised material will feature in a collaborative exhibition with Navigator North at The Masham and a book featuring some of the best photographs and memories people have shared will follow.
“Clearly, British pub culture has a significant heritage in local communities and many people enjoy discussing the subject and Les Bulman’s photos have helped to capture cultural practices that connected communities.
“The photos of most interest to me were those that that captured special moments in time, such as the New Year’s Eve celebrations, karaoke nights and the crowded pubs ahead of the last match at Ayresome Park.
“These are snapshots into the past that invoke memory in a way only photos capturing details such as décor and the different drinks on offer can.
“They reveal stories of lost or much changed buildings and communities that were once a rich part of everyday life in Middlesbrough.
“Of those buildings that do remain, we are provided a glimpse of their former uses before they underwent reinvention as retail outlets, were transformed into modern venues or were left to stand empty.
“This project has provided an eye opening insight to public history and the important role of Teesside Archives in ensuring the survival and accessibility of this material.
“Now, we are planning to develop an exhibition in one of the town’s historic pub buildings – The Masham – reinvented as a cultural space where people can embrace the town’s history and share their memories.