Thousands of unclaimed photographs dating back to the 1980s have been found above a boxing gym.
The family photographs were all developed by P Williams Chemist – many at the company’s photo lab above its shop in the Victoria Centre, Crewe – but were never picked up by customers.
They were found in a loft by gym owners Michelle Howe and her partner Aaron Jones, from Newcastle, who took over the former chemist last year and converted it into UMA Thai Boxing Gym.
Now those photographs, which were left at the shop between 1981 and 1986, have been rediscovered – and are being scanned and posted on Facebook in an attempt to reunite them with their owners.
With almost 10,000 people so far joining the Uncollected Photos From The Old P Williams Chemist Crewe group, many of the 400 packets of photographs which were discovered have now been claimed by original owners, or their families.
The group has even been contacted by people as far away as Australia, who have emigrated from the UK and been stunned to see themselves in old snaps taken during the 1980s.
Michelle, aged 39, said: “When we took over the gym we turned the downstairs into our Thai Boxing gym, but we left the upstairs because of time and money.
“But during lockdown, we thought we could do some painting and decorating.
“When we got into the loft we found all these boxes right at the back. We were going to throw them in the skip, but then we noticed they were photographs, some of them dating back to 1981.
“I thought I would put a few on Facebook, to see if anyone recognised them.
“I wondered why people hadn’t collected them, but none had been paid for. They had all paid either a 50p or a £1 deposit but had outstanding charges.
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“I wonder if people couldn’t afford them. Some of the charges still owed went up to about £10.”
P Williams Chemist was founded around 90 years ago in Crewe. At it’s peak, before it was sold to United Co-operatives in 2006, it boasted 56 pharmacies and covered an area including Cheshire, North Staffordshire, the Wirral and the East Midlands.
During summers in the 1980s, customers used to queue out the door of the Victoria Centre shop to hand in and then collect their holiday snaps.
Michelle has been staggered at the response online since she set up the group.
She said: “It has turned into a very big job.
“I thought we might get a couple of hundred people on the Facebook group, but we are now up to more than 9,400.
“I’ve been getting messages at all times of the day and night, I’ve had messages at 2am.
“People have got in touch from all over the country claiming them. I’ve even had people contacting me from Australia.
“But people have been very grateful. Some people have found photos they have never seen of relatives who have died.”
Gareth Evans worked at P Williams Chemist from 1986 until 1988. Gareth, aged 52, of Haslington, said: “I recognised people in some of the photos straight away.
“It was amazing to see all them, it brought a lot of memories back.
“If photographs hadn’t been collected they were taken upstairs to the lab after a certain amount of time where they were filed away.”
Darren Greenwood met his wife Linsey while they were both working at P Williams.
Darren, aged 52, of Crewe – who now runs DS Greenwood Photography with Linsey, aged 51 – said: “The photo lab first opened in 1985, so a lot of these photographs must have come from Colour Care, which used to develop photographs for P Williams before then.”
Linsey added: “It’s like looking at history. Some of the people in the photographs must have died by now, but how nice to be able to see photographs of them.”