The Express & Star Photo Archive project was fortunate to gain the support of Hazel Jones, who worked for the newspaper during the 1940s. Before her death in 2017, we were grateful that she gave the time to be interviewed about her memories. This article appeared in the newspaper in 2016.
A former Express & Star librarian who was responsible for cataloguing thousands of historic photographs celebrated her 90th birthday recently.
And she believes there would be no better present than to see our photo archive bid be successful, so generations to come can learn about the city and enjoy the nostalgia of looking back on iconic moments in time.
Hazel Jones, who lives in Penn, worked at the newspaper’s HQ in Queen Street, Wolverhampton for seven years from when she finished school in 1942.
Her duties included storing and maintaining an archive of photographs that today encompasses one million images dating back more than a century.
Now, she is backing our bid to digitise the collection, preserving them for generations to come.
The plan, set up with the university of Wolverhampton and WAVE – the museums, galleries and archives of Wolverhampton, has been awarded development funding of £59,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The funding is used in order to develop plans to seek a full grant for the project.
Hazel told the Express & Star of her hopes for the bid, and how she realised: “I think it is a really important project. I’d like to see it happen.
“It’s a historical collection which has been gathered over such a long time. Hopefully the bid is successful and people can enjoy the images for years to come.”
The collection has an estimated one million prints stored, covering events and people featured in the pages of the newspaper during the 20th Century. They document around 100 years of Wolverhampton life and the history the city and its people collectively share.
“I met lots of people doing that job, all sorts of people throughout the building, right from the owners down. I was very much a junior member of staff.
“In the early days, a lot of the photographs weren’t dated or captioned. It was only as I carried on with the job over the years that I realised how important these photographs could be for people to look back on,” she said.
After the Express & Star, Hazel moved down to London to work for Mirror Group newspapers, before returning north to Wolverhampton after retiring.
Both jobs were a dream for Hazel, who has a keen interest in photography herself. Though due to her service in Wolverhampton being during the war, she can’t recall any pictures which were particularly iconic.
She said: “I can’t think of any. It was during the war so the photographs were a bit limited. I did a bit of photography myself as an amateur, and then quarter professionally when I was living in London. I used to take photographs at equestrian events.
“I’ve been interested in photography for as long as I can remember.”
Hazel has recorded a video interview on her time at the Express & Star with local historian Ann Eales in association with the University of Wolverhampton. To mark her birthday, she celebrated by having tea with friends.Express and Star readers were invited to take part in a survey in July last year to find out what photos they would like to see digitised.
The categories ranged from local personalities, sport and war, to buildings and landmarks or crime and punishment. Once online, it is hoped the pictures, will form part of local history lessons in schools and colleges. At the time of the survey, community project consultants Tricolor described the Express & Star collection as ‘a 100-year time capsule for the region’.
Speaking at the time, Express & Star editor Keith Harrison said: “Photographers from the Express & Star have been on hand to photograph events and communities across the Black Country for more than a century.
“This collection documents the people who make this region so great and the history they share. They tell hundreds of thousands of stories.”