Exhibition explores history of Cowe buildings

Cameron Robertson outside Cowe's department store and cockle shop at the bottom of West Street

Cameron Robertson outside Cowe's department store and cockle shop at the bottom of West Street

  • by Kirsty Smyth

Just weeks after the future of Berwick’s historic Cowe buildings was secured, a new exhibition of photography is set to explore their past.

An exhibition about the Bridge Street premises of well-known family firm William Cowe & Sons, which produced the famous Berwick Cockles, will be on show at the Watchtower throughout August.

It comprises photographs taken by Cameron Robertson during the last year in the uninhabited buildings, prior to Northumberland Development Company Arch securing funding to bring the Georgian shops back to life.

The images look at the present state of the buildings, which the Cowe family took on in 1886, as well as the marks left by years of human activity.

Photography graduate Cameron said: “I wondered if it would make a project for my degree and as soon as I went in I realised it would.

“The room where they made the Berwick Cockles was just left like the maker could come back in at any moment. It was a photographer’s dream.”

He was particularly interested in the human trace left among the fabric of the buildings. “It wasn’t really about the architecture, it was about the marks left by the family and the people that were there,” he explained.

The project helped Cameron on his way to a first class honours degree, and now he wants to bring it back to its rightful home, before going on to study a masters in Museum Studies at Newcastle University in September.

A book of his images, kindly printed by Martins the Printers, who rented a shop in the Cowe buildings before moving to Spittal, will also be available.

“This project has been perfect because it combines my love for old stuff while creating a body of work,” Cameron said.

“I wanted it to come back to Berwick, to the place where it means something to people.

“The images are open to interpretation, but here in Berwick people have a connection to them.”

In addition to the photographs, previously unseen archival images and objects relating to the business will also be on display, including equipment which was used in the manufacture of the Berwick Cockles.

A preview of the free exhibition will take place between 2-5pm on August 2, after which it will be open every Thursday-to-Sunday, 12 noon–4pm, until August 29.




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