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Snapshots of a time gone by, thanks to vicar; Victorian images go public on the internet.

Byline: Dave Black? 07884 117069 ?

WHEN Victorian vicar Roderick MacLeod was not working hard to save his parishioners' souls, he was enthusiastically capturing their lives on camera.

As rural dean of Morpeth - while based in the nearby village of Mitford - the talented amateur photographer built up a huge collection of pictures of his flock around the turn of the 20th century.

Now Canon MacLeod's fascinating lantern slides are being enjoyed by a wider audience, thanks to the wonders of the digital age and the popularity of social networking sites.

The grainy photographs are showcased on the London-born clergyman's very own Facebook site, which was created by archives staff at Woodhorn Museum near Ashington.

Canon MacLeod captured hundreds of images of family and village life in and around Mitford, where he worked as a vicar for 37 years.

After moving there in 1897 he enthusiastically documented the local scene, as well as church architecture and the Scottish islands - entertaining his parishioners on winter's evenings with magic lantern shows.

Several hundred of his lantern slides were rescued and deposited with the Northumberland Archives, by Mitford resident George Brown, when the village's old vicarage was being demolished.

Countless others have been lost, although some have turned up over the years in other collections. They provide a fascinating glimpse into a corner of rural Northumberland around 100 years ago.

Archives staff at Woodhorn decided that, because Canon MacLeod was something of a pioneer with his photography, his collection should be showcased on Facebook. At present his page features around 140 pictures, with roughly the same number again to be posted in the coming months.

They include images of everything from country pursuits and fashion to modes of transport and family celebrations, creating a delightful album of Victorian and Edwardian life.

Liz Ritson, Woodhorn's events and exhibitions officer, is delighted with the reaction of people visiting Canon MacLeod's Facebook site.

"We've had some interesting discussions about the locations of photographs and the activities taking place, and a chuckle or two at some of the funnier images.

"We have also learned from visitors to the pages. They have helped us to place buildings and try to identify exactly what's going on.

"I'd really encourage anyone with an interest in local history, and not just of Mitford, to have a look. The collection paints such a wonderful picture of times gone by, and it's a superb resource."

The Facebook page - Canon R C MacLeod - was made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and features a different theme each month.

As well as his photography, Canon MacLeod was a keen musician who sometimes went straight from the pulpit to play the organ during church services. He was also an authority on Gothic architecture and became the archivist and historian of the MacLeod clan.


MAKING HISTORY IN TOWNRoderick MacLeod, rural dean of Morpeth and some of his fascinating pictures
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2013
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