Bolton in The 1970s | Photographs by Don Tonge

Don Tonge’s photographs of Bolton in the 1970s capture the industrial landscape of the town during a time when life seemed much simpler for many people.


The images of children playing out in the street, swinging from rope swings in front of derelict buildings, mischievous things that children don’t get up to anymore. The sense of freedom and adventure has long since been banished to the scrapyard of health and safety. Don, born and raised in Bolton, captured these fleeting moments of everyday life as he wandered the streets of his hometown. What seemed like the everyday and mundane has now materialised into something quite special.

Boys on the rail tracks. Bolton, 1970s.
Children Play on the rail tracks.

Photo © Don Tonge.


Don “I left school at fifteen without any qualifications and initially worked in the building trade. Eventually, I started to get work as a freelance photographer for many years, shooting press and portraits. I spent about eight years as the front-of-house photographer for The Octagon Theatre in Bolton. However, my passion has always been Documentary Photography.”

The Reform Club, Bolton, 1970s.
The Reform Club, 1970s.

Photo © Don Tonge.

Northern Life

Don’s extensive archive showcases the daily lives of Boltonians, including some of his friends. As with many photographers, Don’s work is inspired by his personal experiences, which is evident in his images. At British Culture Archive, we firmly believe that Don’s work is on par with some of the greatest British documentary photography from the 20th century. His powerful and, at times, humorous images all share the story of life in a northern town.

Bolton, 1970s.
Moor Lane Bus Station, Bolton, 1970s.

Photo © Don Tonge.

As well as Don’s Bolton archive, other bodies of his work include his self-published Seaside series documenting British resorts since the 1970s, The Reform Club documenting nights in a Bolton Social Club during the 1970s, and Good Day at the Races (1980), which was shot in a day at Haydock Races.

Don’s work has been exhibited in numerous exhibitions throughout the UK and is now featured as part of The British Culture Archive.


Bolton Market, 1970s.
Bolton Market.

Photo © Don Tonge.

Bolton Fair, 1970s.
Bolton Fair in the 1970s.

Photo © Don Tonge.

Dial a Pint. Bolton, 1970s.
Dial-a-Pint, Bolton, 1975.

Photo © Don Tonge.

Children play in the street Bolton, 1970s.
Children in Bolton, 1970s.

Photo © Don Tonge.

Condemed Housing. Bolton, 1970s.
Condemed Housing. Bolton, 1970s.

Photo © Don Tonge.

Bolton, 1970s.
Back George Arthur Street, Bolton, 1970s.

Photo © Don Tonge.

Boys School. Bolton, 1970s.
Boys School, 1975.

Photo © Don Tonge.

All images © Don Tonge, all rights reserved. 




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