A VETERAN news photographer who captured events in County Durham for almost 50 years has died.

Frank Bilton, who lived in Durham for most of his life, died on Friday, aged 86.

The former photographer for The Advertiser series, sister paper of The Northern Echo, became a well-known figure in Durham during his career, which spanned 48 years.

He became a familiar face, snapping everything and everyone, from royalty and special visitors to the city and its residents.

After he retired in 1995, he spent time looking after his grandchildren and in 2003 joined the mayor's bodyguard, a ceremonial role with roots in the 13th century.

The Northern Echo:

Frank Bilton, who has died aged 86

Heather Bilton, his wife of 59 years, said: "He met lots of people doing his job. He met the Queen. One person he like was Margot Fonteyn – he gave her a hand to get off the train.

"The thing he like the most though was ordinary people. He liked doing golden and diamond wedding anniversaries and he always did the over 60s birthday parties."

Mr Bilton, who lived in Whinney Hill with his wife, is survived by his sons Andrew and Philip and grandchildren Rebecca and James.

Mr Bilton, who was born in Gilesgate, started working at the Advertiser, which was based in Saddler Street at the time, after leaving Whinney Hill School, aged 15.

After leaving for two years to complete his national service, he returned to the paper aged 20 and became a photographer.

He was also a founding member of Durham City Angling Club, and was involved with the scouts and Houghton-le-Spring Pipe Band, and enjoyed gardening.

In later years, he became a Freemason and was a keen supporter of its charity, Teddies for Loving Care (TLC), which provides soft toys for children in hospital.

He also enjoyed giving talks about the bodyguard at Durham Town Hall and to groups of school children and university students.

Mrs Bilton added: "He had a wonderful sense of humour.

"He will be sorely missed."

Mayor of Durham Councillor Katie Corrigan said: “Frank has been part of the fabric of Durham City since he worked at the Advertiser. "As a member of the mayor’s bodyguard he regularly volunteered for additional duties and his dry sense of humour and his knowledge will be missed by us all.”

His funeral will take place on Tuesday morning at St Giles Church and Durham Crematorium. Further details are still to be decided.