Leeds & West Yorkshire

Subjects of Bradford's mystery Belle Vue photo archive found

The Kudla family in a Belle Vue portrait Image copyright Bradford Museums
Image caption The Kudla family in a Belle Vue picture with, at the front, sisters Irene (left) and Orysia (right)

A search for people among thousands who had their pictures taken at a long-closed photographic studio has succeeded in finding some of the subjects.

Belle Vue studios in Manningham, Bradford, documented people's lives from the 1920s until it closed in 1975.

After it closed many images were dumped in a skip before being rescued.

During the search for people shown in the images some of the photos were displayed at a Ukrainian club, a bus drivers' canteen and also a Windrush celebration event in the city.

The studio's old-fashioned technique had used a Victorian camera and daylight to produce a glass plate negative. Eventually more than 17,000 of them were saved and more than 10,000 have so far been digitised.

Tim Smith, a photographer and former Bradford museum curator who helped save the collection, said the pictures were "unique nationally" and showed a "city's population frozen in time".

However, the names of the people in almost all the portraits were a mystery - though now some have been found.

Orysia Fletcher (left) and Irene Diakiw (right)
Image caption Sisters Orysia (left) and Irene (right) were part of a family that sent pictures like the one at the top of this story to relatives in Ukraine

Sisters Orysia Fletcher and Irene Diakiw found long-forgotten family portraits were among the pictures displayed at Bradford Ukrainian Club.

Orysia, now 67, said: "Once a year we used to have to go and have a family photo taken and those photos would be sent to our grandparents in Ukraine, so they had an update as in those days no one had cameras."

Older sister Irene, 69, said: "It was usually Easter time when we got new clothes because that was a tradition."

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Carol Peltier
Image caption Carol Peltier said "I started crying because they were pictures I'd never seen before"

Carol Peltier found a series of family pictures when she attended a Windrush commemoration in Bradford city centre.

"This is a picture of me at one and a half years old, I had a very happy childhood and it brings back loads of memories," she said..

"Lovely memories and some sadness because both my mum and dad are not here anymore."

Kulvinder Randhawa and parents
Image caption Kulvinder Randhawa said the pictures were "a very precious memory to me"

Kulvinder Randhawa read a BBC story about the search and has been reunited with portraits of her family.

"There are no family photographs from that era, so it was really nice seeing they had been preserved.

"We celebrated my mum's birthday earlier this year by giving her a copy of the photo because it was lost to the family."

Belle Vue Boys School. Manningham Image copyright Bradford Museums
Image caption Ali Rashid (front row, left) and Paul Bayes (back row, middle) on a school photo
Ali Rashid and Paul Bayes
Image caption The Right Reverend Paul Bayes (right) - now the Bishop of Liverpool - said "look what happened to us"

A picture of prefects from Belle Vue Boys School on Manningham Lane, that was close to the studio, has also reunited two of the group almost 50 years after the picture was taken.

The sitters that day included Ali Rashid, now a TV executive but then the deputy head boy of the school, and Paul Bayes, now the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool.

Bishop Bayes said: "This is the prefect's committee of the school and every year there was a school magazine and the photo went on the inside page.

"We were a bunch of people who thought the world was at our feet and indeed so it was. Look what happened to us."

Daylight studio at Belle Vue Image copyright Bradford Museums
Image caption In all, 17,481 negatives taken in the daylight studio were recovered

Despite identifying some of the people in the studio's pictures there remained "thousands more stories to tell", said Mr Smith.

"What Tony Walker [the photographer] did is leave behind this extraordinary legacy which tells the story of Bradford."

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Hidden History: The Lost Portraits of Bradford is to be shown on BBC Four on Monday, 28 October at 21:00 GMT.

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