The History behind Sunderland

In the Beginning

The first inhabitants in Sunderland’s area are thought to be Stone Age hunters and gatherers. While in the final stage during the Stone Age, Hastings Hill (on the western outskirts of Sunderland) was a large center of activity. It is believed to be a place of ritual significance and burial. It is thought that the Brigantes occupied the surrounding lands of River Wear during pre- and post- Roman era. There are recorded settlements at the Wear’s mouth dated to be around 674; this is at the same time Benedict Biscop was given land by the king of Northumbria. This land was founded as Wearmouth-Jarrow (now known as St. Peter’s) monastery. This area was then called Monkwearmouth. The community was overtaken in 686 by Coelfrid. Wearmouth-Jarrow was then known to be a major learning and knowledge cetre.

Vikings raided the coast line in the late 8th century. The monastery had been abandoned by the middle of the 9th century. In 930, Athelstan of England granted lands south to the river to the Bishop of Durham. The lands were then known as Bishopwearmouth. In 1100, Bishopwearmouth parish was home to a fishing village known as ‘Soender-land’ (later known as ‘Sunderland’). Hugh Pudsey and the Bishop of Durham granted a charter for the settlement of Soender-land in 1179

By the late 16th century, Sunderland was creating and trading salt, as well as trading quality coal by port.

Sunderland in the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries

In 1642, King Charles I gave the deeds to Newcastle concerning the East of England coal trade. This created conflict for Sunderland, as it had begun to develop as a coal-trading town. It shaped resentment towards the monarchy and Newcastle. In 1644 a Scottish army sided with the king’s enemies and stationed themselves at Sunderland. Fighting occurred between the monarchy’s troops and the troops dedicated to Newcastle’s Marquess who waged war against them. The encounter of the most significance occurred in the areas of Boldon and Offerton. The River Tyne was blockaded, damaging the Newcastle coal trade. This caused Sunderland’s Coal trade to prosper. Due to the hardship of trying to traverse the Wear’s shallow waters, the coal was transferred into large boats and taken downstream to the awaiting colliers.

In 1719 the three settlements Bishopwearmouth, Monkwearmouth, and Sunderland began to combine. The settlement was flourishing due to the success of shipbuilding along the banks of the river, salt panning, and the port of Sunderland. Sunderland became known as ‘Sunderland-near-the-sea’.

The cholera epidemic began in 1831, and once called, the church councilmen were unable to handle the situation. Sunderland was the first town in Britain to be struck with cholera. Sunderland was quarantined. The port was blockaded soon after. However, this did not stop the spreading of cholera, as it spread to Gateshead. It then proceeded to spread rapidly across the entire country. After the church councilmen’s lack of governance during the cholera epidemic, the townsmen demanded an organized government. Thusly so, in 1835, the Borough of Sunderland was created.

From the 20th Century to Now

In 1939 during World War II, Sunderland fell prey to the German Luftwaffe. This took the lives of approximately 267 people. It caused severe damage and destroyed countless homes. Sunderland began developing more housing after the war. By 1967 the town’s boundaries expanded when Castletown, Herrington, Ryhope, Silksworth, and South Hylton were absorbed into Sunderland. In 1992, Sunderland finally gained city status.

Today, Sunderland is a thriving city in North East England- rich with heritage and culture.