Mabel Hunter at the Jerome Studio, Sunderland


The following pictures and text have come to me (March 2009) from Patricia (Patsy) Beech, the grand-daughter of Mabel Hunter, who worked at the Jerome Studio in Sunderland from post-1935 until 1959. Some of the photographs shown below are of unknown Jerome staff, contemporary with Mabel. If you think you might be any of the people shown, or are a relative, do get in touch, as Patsy would love to hear from you.

Mabel Hunter was born Mabel Urquhart on 11th July 1899. She married John Robert Strong Hunter on New Year's day 1924. Unfortunately her husband died from an industrial injury in 1935, sustained while he was at work. Compensation and widow's pensions were nothing like they are now and so, with two young children to bring up (Helen & John) during the 1930s depression, it meant Mabel had to go out to work. Patsy believes this is when Mabel joined Jerome in Sunderland - she was definitely there during WW2 (1939-45). Patsy relates how Mabel used to speak about the Armed Services people coming in to the Studio to have their photographs taken before going off to war and wondering how many never returned.

Mabel is known to have worked in a photographic studio in South Shields prior to her marriage, so it would have been a natural thing for Mabel to return to doing similar work - which was general retouching work and hand colouring black & white prints, an 'extra' offered by many photographic studios until the early 1960s. From mid-1960 the cost and quality of a 'true' colour photograph came into an affordable price range, but for the previous 100years the main means by which colour photographs were produced was by hand colouring.

Patsy understands that Mabel was the only hand colouring artist employed by Jerome in Sunderland, so any coloured photographs from that branch would most likely be the work of Mabel. The colours she used were Kodak 'Velox' Transparent Water Colour Stamps and Patsy still has one of Mabel's brushes, a "4 Reeves' war series 461".


The instructions for use can be viewed as a pdf file by clicking here.

This group photograph was taken on 15th November 1945.
Mabel Hunter is in the back row, 3rd from the right.

Some of the names of the other girls are written on the back of the print and they read:
E.Eggleston (aged 20 years); E.Robson; probably Elsie Robson - front row, extreme right (aged 25 years); Mary McKenna (aged 18 years); Nancy Laurie (aged 17 years); E.Forster (aged 20 years); E.Gatenley (aged 19 years), Miss G.Valkly (no age given) and Miss W.McCarroll (aged 17 years; left end of the front row).

It seems that with so many men still in the armed forces, it was women who were running the Studio.


Left hand side:
Mabel Hunter, photographed on 21st October 1946 (aged 47 years).

On the back of the print it reads:
Sitter: Mrs Hunter
Operator: Mrs Eggleston
Printer: Miss Ellis
Retoucher: Mrs Hunter
Manageress: N.McKeo?? (unfortunately, this name is undecipherable).

Right hand side:
This print shows Mabel and 3 other female colleagues and a male colleague. It is dated on the reverse 1st January 1949. Men would have been back in the work place by this time, since most all non-regulars would, by then, have been 'de-mobbed' out of the armed forces.

 Patsy comments that since it was taken on 1st January, this implies the staff were not taking a Bank Holiday. She comments that usually the North East "always did have a holiday on the 1st; it was the one day a year we became Scottish !".


More Jerome Studio, Sunderland, staff with Mabel (centre, front row).
It is dated on the reverse as 4th July 1957 and states "Jerome Ltd, High Street West, Sunderland.
No names appear on the reverse.
The Group photograph above of Mabel with her Jerome colleagues is undated but Patsy believes it dates from around 1958-59. Notice that Mabel, back row, 3rd from the left, is wearing a hat. Patsy comments that "wearing her hat, ...over the years became part of her. When she used to call in to see my Mam & Dad the phrase we always heard was - I'll not take my hat off, I'm not stopping!". This is reminiscent of the comedy catch-phrase used by Ken Platt, except that he used to say "I won't take me coat off, I'm not stopping!"

Above is a hand coloured picture of Elsie (Robson) with her husband Chris, probably taken around the same time and almost certainly hand coloured by Mabel.

The black & white photograph alongside is of one of Mabel's Jerome colleagues, Elsie Robson. It is dated on the reverse 6th November 1946.

The hand coloured photograph above is of Patricia (Patsy) Beech when she was aged 3 months old. It is dated 12th June 1948 and was almost certainly hand coloured by her grandmother Mabel Hunter.

Patsy comments that "I don't think I ever gave it a second thought that my gran must have coloured the photograph until I came across the black & white version the other day !"


Three pictures of a very pretty, but no name, Jerome employee. They were all taken between 18th April 1947 (extreme right) and 12th July 1950 (extreme left) and give some idea of the 'props' used and the cloud background. Also, how the lighting could be moved around to give greater contrast in light and shade.

The photographs to the left and above are believed to show Mr.Agar and Peggy Mullen, but Patsy is not absolutely sure. There is no information on the reverse of the prints "not even a date", but these are names Patsy recalls Mabel often mentioning.
Another name that Patsy recalls cropping up at regular intervals was Miss Nugent. However, Patsy doesn't know if she appears on any of the photographs or what her job was. Patsy speculates Miss Nugent may have been the manageress at some point because of the way Mabel spoke about her.

To complete the history of Mabel Hunter, above is a family photograph taken in 1900 when Mabel was just a year old. She is the little one in the front row, wearing a white dress. Her parents are Hector & Ellen Urquhart. Her sisters were Kitty, Meggy & Mary, and her brothers were Hector, Tommy & Norman. "There were still more to come" at this time, as Patsy relates. Finally, Mabel aged 100, sitting proudly by her card from the Queen. Patsy is standing to the right, while to the left (in the photograph) is Patsy's mother, Mabel's daughter. Mabel had previously moved south to live with her son in Wiltshire, where sadly she died in 1999, aged 100. "Quite some innings!" as Patsy says.

This page last modified: 2nd November 2012