Lost Wisbech brought to life as 3,000 images taken by late photographer Geoff Hastings are published

PUBLISHED: 10:32 20 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:11 20 November 2019

Lost Wisbech brought to life as 3,000 images taken by late photographer Geoff Hastings are published. Picture: GEOFF HASTINGS

Lost Wisbech brought to life as 3,000 images taken by late photographer Geoff Hastings are published. Picture: GEOFF HASTINGS

Archant

Lost streets and buildings of Wisbech have been brought to life after 3,000 images of the town - that were thought to have been destroyed in a flood - have been published.

Lost Wisbech brought to life as 3,000 images taken by late photographer Geoff Hastings are published. Picture: GEOFF HASTINGSLost Wisbech brought to life as 3,000 images taken by late photographer Geoff Hastings are published. Picture: GEOFF HASTINGS

'Photos of Wisbech no.1' by the Friends of Wisbech and Fenland Museum features photos taken by late photographer Geoff Hastings.

The book, which has words by Andy Ketley, sold out of its 100 copies in the first week of sales, before an official launch could be arranged.

Nostalgic photos feature parts of town that have now been demolished or transformed from the 1950s and 60s.

They include rare images of the canal side, Russell Street, warehouses on the frozen river, Silver Street and The Crescent where the library now stands.

Lost Wisbech brought to life as 3,000 images taken by late photographer Geoff Hastings are published. Picture: GEOFF HASTINGSLost Wisbech brought to life as 3,000 images taken by late photographer Geoff Hastings are published. Picture: GEOFF HASTINGS

But the photos may never have seen daylight if it wasn't for a surprise discovery some 30 years ago.

Garry Monger, secretary of the Friends of Wisbech Museum, explained: "Geoff was well known in Wisbech for taking pictures in the 1950s/60s of the all the places that were in the backstreets.

"When Wisbech flooded in the 70s all of his photos were destroyed - so everyone thought.

"But after he died in the 1980s, lots of negatives were found where water had not reached in a cupboard at his house.

Lost Wisbech brought to life as 3,000 images taken by late photographer Geoff Hastings are published. Picture: GEOFF HASTINGSLost Wisbech brought to life as 3,000 images taken by late photographer Geoff Hastings are published. Picture: GEOFF HASTINGS

"They were passed on to Andy Ketley who then began a big project over the next two decades to get them digitised."

Geoff's lost photos have also helped those in their family history quest.

"Everyone would take a picture of Peckover House, but Geoff was the one getting pictures of places that are no longer there now or the places that we can't go back and revisit to see what the are looked like," Garry said.

"It's the lost areas of the town and lots of places that have been demolished.

"It has shed light on people's family history and narrowed down research for some too."

Trustee of the Friends of Wisbech Museum, Andy Ketley, has wrote a few lines about each image in the book.

The first 100 copies sold out in just one week and a second book is now in the pipeline.

Forty images of old Wisbech were featured in the first installment with a few lines of text under each to describe the scene.

Andy expressed his gratitude to Geoff's family for leaving him his "legacy of work".

He said : "By the early 1970s the slum clearances had stripped Wisbech of whole streets of houses, workplaces, schools, pubs and more importantly, communities.

"Geoff took the time to photograph much of which was lost, including a lot of those back-street houses etc.

"I was fortunate enough to have known Geoff before he died and I am incredibly grateful to his family who left me the legacy of his work.

"In his later years, Geoff never realised that his images had survived.

"During the 1978 floods, Geoff and wife Mabel had to be rescued from their house in Opportune Road because the waters had risen to within a couple of feet of their living room ceiling.

"When they returned after the waters subsided, all his photographs were floating in the lounge, in sewer contaminated river water. As you can imagine, they were devastated.

"It was only after the couple had passed away that their son found more than 3,000 negatives stashed at the back of a bedroom cupboard.

"The family very generously gave them to me as they knew I passionately believed in the importance of this record and their support has continued by allowing us to give 100 per cent of the profits from this venture to Wisbech & Fenland Museum.

"It is a gem in Wisbech's crown and deserves to be protected."

All the money raised from the books will now go towards protecting the future of Wisbech Museum.

The second instalment 'Wisbech Photos of Wisbech no.2' is expected to be at the museum by the end of the month.

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