A GROUNDBREAKING project to capture Bolton’s pre-war life is the subject of a new exhibition.
On Friday, Mayor of Bolton Cllr Guy Harkin officially opened the Worktown’s 75th Birthday exhibition at Bolton Museum .
The original Worktown project saw photographer Humphrey Spender take more than 900 pictures in 1937 and 1938 which captured every aspect of life in the town, including work , sport, children and even goings-on down at the pub.
The work was part of the Mass Observation project, a large-scale investigation into the habits of the ordinary British public, which started life in Bolton but later spread around the country during the Second World War as the Government used the techniques to monitor morale.
The new exhibition marks the 75th anniversary of the project’s launch and also includes photographs from more recent years on loan from the Mass Observation Archives at the University of Sussex, such as one in 1980 when Spender returned to the town to see how it had changed.
It features selections from more than 850 photographs, paintings by artist and poet Julian Trevelyan and filmmaker Humphrey Jennings, as well as observations made by people such as Bolton playwright Bill Naughton.
Other artefacts include the original suitcase filled with magazine and newspaper cuttings used by Trevelyan to create collages in Bolton streets, as well as Spender’s camera.
Visitors at the weekend were impressed by the sights on show.
Wendy Hadfield, aged 63, of Bradshaw , said: “I think it’s brilliant. I’ve never been in this part of the museum before, but things like this make you feel old! If you look at it, people had very little, but they were a lot better off then than we are now. Nobody ever said they were bored then and everybody helped each other, but you can live next door to someone for 10 years and not say a word to each other now. A lot of things have changed since then and most of the time not for the better.”
Colin Mather, aged 45, of Deane, said: “They’ve had things from industrial times here before but I’ve not seen these particular photos.
“They’re interesting and show a way of life that we don’t really have now and don’t experience any more.
“There’s a picture of a house which is filthy and disgusting, you can’t imagine people living like that now. Bolton has changed so much even over the last 30 years.”
Denis Pye, aged 77, of Halliwell , said: “I’ve seen these pictures as far back as the 1960s and I was hoping they would have some I haven’t seen before, and they have.
“I think it’s important because the younger generations should know what it was like in Bolton in the 1930s, but there’s quite a lot of similarities to the way things are now.”
Andrew Williams, aged 40, of Atherton, said: “We’re too young to remember all this so it’s fascinating.”
The free exhibition runs until December 2 and is open from 9am-5pm Monday-Saturday, and 10am-4pm on Sundays.