Historic photos of South African miners, thought to date back to the 1880s, have been found hidden under a secret trap door in a North Yorkshire wine cellar.


Images courtesy of Sepia Memories

The cache of 46 prints, along with a handheld stereo viewer, were discovered hidden underneath a carpet in a ‘previously unknown cellar’, next to some vintage bottles of port and brandy at a house in Bentham.

They were found while the property was being cleared ahead of its owner moving to a nursing home.

A woman handed them in to classic camera dealer Sepia Memories, which is based in Morecambe, Lancashire, telling the store’s owner she wanted them to ‘go to a good home’.

The b&w prints measure 14x8cm and are mounted on thick cardboard.

When seen through the stereo viewer the images ‘came to life’, said Sepia Memories’ owner Laurraine Smith who contacted South African history experts after being left staggered by the find.

‘I notice that some of the miners posing in the photos are holding lit candles to help make them a focal point…’, Smith wrote in an email to Heritage Portal – a discussion, education and marketing website on South African heritage.

Specialists praised her for ‘saving what looks like a priceless collection of old Johannesburg mining photos’.

They are now working with MuseumAfrica to bring the collection back to South Africa.

Heritage Portal founder James Ball told Amateur Photographer of his excitement at the discovery: ‘The photographs have been a huge highlight and I can’t wait for them to arrive.’