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Mystery of old photos discovered in Sheffield office

Laura Edwards and Ann Browne with some of the old photos and drawings. Picture: Dean Atkins
Laura Edwards and Ann Browne with some of the old photos and drawings. Picture: Dean Atkins
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Four racing drivers pose beside impressive classic cars, helmets on and ready to start motoring – a moment in time captured by a photographer decades ago. In the background stands the familiar water tower at Norton in Sheffield, but otherwise the picture’s story is a puzzling mystery.

The image is among a stash of intriguing photographs, drawings and documents uncovered at a Sheffield firm that need to be reunited with their rightful owner.

Drivers in front of the water tower at Norton

Drivers in front of the water tower at Norton

Chris Cowen, interim general manager of city laboratory testing firm Element, was clearing out an office at Warren Street, Attercliffe, alongside colleagues when the papers were found hidden behind some 1960s desk drawers.

“These were old desks, big leather-topped things, that we thought looked quite nice, which is the reason we kept them,” he said.

Twenty items were discovered in total – 18 photographs, plus a postcard and a birthday invitation. Chris is a member of Pictures of Sheffield Old and New, a group on Facebook, and mounted an appeal for information.

“I thought I’d stick them on there and see if anybody recognises them. I expected a little more interest. There have been a couple of comments but it’s a bit of a mystery.”

Old pictures and drawings found at Element in Attercliffe, Sheffield

Old pictures and drawings found at Element in Attercliffe, Sheffield

There are colour pictures of a fishing trip, snaps of a smartly-suited trio of men merrily enjoying drinks, and a child’s drawings, including a sketch titled ‘A Modern Airport by Day’.

“The postcard is an interesting one, that’s from somebody’s youngster, sent to their mum and dad from France,” said Chris. “There’s an address on there but I didn’t want to make that public.”

The invite, meanwhile, was sent to a guest at a lavish 21st birthday party thrown for Richard W Fox at Sheffield’s Grand Hotel on January 30, 1966. Fine dining French-style was on the menu, from Consomme Colbert to Fromage de Wensleydale, with toasts to the Queen and, at midnight, ‘the coming of age’. It is thought Richard may have been the younger son of Walter Fox, the owner of a vehicle body and radiator repairers on Suffolk Road, Sheffield. In the mid-1960s a nightclub was also in operation above the city centre business.

Chris said he had a passion for old pictures, and knew how it felt to lose mementos. “I like things like that. I’ve lost photos in the past – I had a burglary a number of years ago and they took my computer and all the photos of my kids were on there. I never got them back. I wonder whether somebody’s in the same situation. It’d be good if somebody thought they’d lost these and they get some back. These are getting on a bit, about 40 or 50 years old, it’s not like digital cameras where you can take the same photo 500 times. You had to be really careful what you took, and you only got one set developed.”

Old pictures and drawings found at Element in Attercliffe, Sheffield

Old pictures and drawings found at Element in Attercliffe, Sheffield

The Warren Street office was previously occupied by Sovereign Architectural Fabrications; Element took over the building five years ago. The company is the fifth-largest global firm of its kind in the world, and has several local bases, including a facility on Maltravers Road, one at the back of Magna and another site in Rotherham, employing about 120 people. The Attercliffe premises largely tests items made in local foundries – cast metals anything up to 16 tonnes in weight, often destined for oil and gas pipelines.

Email chris.cowen@element.com or laura.edwards@element.com with information.

Old pictures and drawings found at Element in Attercliffe, Sheffield

Old pictures and drawings found at Element in Attercliffe, Sheffield

Old pictures and drawings found at Element in Attercliffe, Sheffield

Old pictures and drawings found at Element in Attercliffe, Sheffield

Old pictures and drawings found at Element in Attercliffe, Sheffield

Old pictures and drawings found at Element in Attercliffe, Sheffield