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Repository Northumberland County Archives Service
RefNo NRO 01876
Title J.P GIBSON OF HEXHAM, NORTHUMBERLAND: PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORDS.
Date 1799-1926
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AdminHistory J.P. Gibson was born at Hexham on 4 January 1838. He was the son of W.W. Gibson, chemist, was educated at Hexham Grammar School and afterwards at Newcastle Grammar School and followed his father in his business as chemist, carrying it on, later in partnership with his elder son John, until his death on 22 April 1912. Interested in photography from about 1860, he became a highly distinguished exponent of its application to landscape and picturesque architecture, winning upwards of fifty medals at home and abroad from 1881 to 1890.
An early interest in medieval churches, castles and peles of Northumberland led him to the study of its archaeology and particularly its Roman antiquities and he became recognised as a leading authority on the Roman Wall, spending much time on excavations and their elucidation.
He joined the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1883, became a Vice President and contributed many articles to Archaeologia Aeliana. He was also a member of the Durham and Northumberland Architectural and Archaeological Society, and in 1911 was elected F.S.A.
In his youth Gibson was a boxer and an athlete and served in the Hexham Rifle Corps from the beginning of the Volunteer movement in 1859, retiring in 1892 with the rank of Major and having gained the Victoria decoration. He was a knowledgable and enthusiastic lecturer on the historical and picturesque aspects of Northumberland, his slide talks being especially popular.
He was by preference an outdoor man more at home on the 'bent sae brown' than in the library, but his sensitivity to nature and his enquiring mind surely cultivated in Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, his second son, the taste for poetry for which he achieved world wide recognition and which Elizabeth, his third daughter, also shared.
The portraits of him show him as a vigorous soldierly figure, an individualist of strong spirit, but his friends testified to the warmth of his friendship, while his photographs bear eloquent witness to the sensitivity and tenderness of his nature.
John Gibson, 1871-1936, his elder son, followed his father in his photographic interests as well as in the family business, the Old Pharmacy in Fore Street. He was likewise an informed archaeologist and antiquarian but, while his knowledge of the Roman Wall is evident from photographs which were exhibited both in Newcastle and in London, his chief interest was in the history of Hexham Abbey and monastic architecture generally. He collaborated with Charles Clement Hodges in Hexham and its Abbey in 1919, published Notes on Hexham Abbey in 1920, revised Hodges' 1913 Guide to the Priory Church of St. Andrew Hexham in 1921, and wrote many articles for publication in the Hexham Courant and elsewhere. His publications earned him election as Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and he was also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and a member of other learned societies. John Gibson gave talks on architecture, including a series on the B.B.C. in the 1930's and was much in demand as a lantern slide lecturer, his son Philip acting as his projectionist on many occasions just as he himself had helped his own father.
Northumberland County Council

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