Weekly City Spotlight: Sunderland


Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland

The city of Sunderland is located on the coast and at the mouth of the River Wear in Tyne and Wear in the North East of England.  As well as beautiful beaches and parklands Sunderland is home to many historic and modern attractions from The Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens to the impressive Stadium of Light and the cultural National Glass Centre. With an abundance of shops both high street and boutiques, Sunderland’s is also known for its underground music scene.

Historic Sunderland
Sunderland was granted City Status in 1990 as part of the Queen’s 40th accession anniversary, having grown extensively from a small fishing village that was originally part of County Durham.
Sunderland was ideally located and grew as a port with commodities such as salt and coal traded. Its move into shipbuilding began in the 14th century and during wartime Sunderland launched 245 merchant ships between 1939 and 1945, with its adopted ship HMS Ocean, the biggest warship in the Royal Navy fleet.  Sadly Sunderland was also extensively bombed during the Second World War with devastating effects in terms of loss of life and the destruction of homes and businesses.

Development of electronics, chemical, brewing and glass industries took place in Sunderland, and automotive giant Nissan located its first European plant in the city, becoming a significant employer for the area. More recently areas of Sunderland have been regenerated, with several additions to the city including the National Glass Centre and a new campus for the University of Sunderland.  Housing and business centres have also been developed with the Stadium of Light, now the home of Sunderland A.F.C completed in 1997, which has also played host to concerts by Take That, Kings of Leon, Cold Play and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.  The Stadium was built on the site of the Wearmouth Colliery, the last of the coalmines in Sunderland which closed in 1994.

Popular Culture
Sunderland is a historic and cultural city and as such has also been a focus in popular culture.

Films & TV
Dead Frequency (2010) was both written and directed by Rob Burrows, and starred Stephen Mason, Cheryl Moody and Michaela Marshall.  This independent psychological vampire thriller was shot on location in the North East including Sunderland University.

Malice in Wonderland (2009) is a modern take on the Alice in Wonderland fairy tale, set in the North East and starred Danny Dyer, Maggie Grace and Matt King.  Scenes for the film were shot in Sunderland as well as Wearside.

A Home for the Bullets (2005) was written and directed by S.N. Sibley and features renegade cop Axel Falcon as he hunts down those responsible for the death of his family members. The film stars Ken Mood, William Scott Johnson and Conner McFadyen and was shot in Sunderland.

Sunderland and the surrounding area are believed to have been a source of inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, with author Lewis Carroll also working on such stories as Jabberwocky and The Walrus and the Carpenter during his visits. There are statues of both Carroll in Whitburn Library and of The Walrus which is located in Sunderland’s beautiful Mowbray Park.

Local author Sheila Quigley has set many of her books in the fictional estate of Seahills in the city of Sunderland, choosing to use locations within the city to feature as murder scenes.  Tours are run from the Library in Houghton-Le-Spring during Houghton Feast to follow the trails that uncover many of the sites referred to in the books.  Quigley’s thrillers include Stand By Me, Hungry Eyes, and The Road to Hell.

Social Media
Additional information on Sunderland can be found on its official website Visit Sunderland as well as its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.

Famous Faces
Terry Deary, the famous children’s author was born in Sunderland on 3 January 1946. Best known for his hugely popular Horrible Histories series which have sold over 25 million copies, other works by Deary include The Last Viking, The Boy Who Haunted Himself and The Custard Kid.

Emilie Sande was born in Sunderland on 10 March 1987, the British recording artist has enjoyed much success as a solo performer, and has also written songs for artists such as Rihanna, Cheryl Cole and Alicia Keys.

Sir William Mills invented the hand grenade, known as the Mills Bomb which was used extensively during the First World War.  Born in Sunderland on 24 April 1856, Mills built the first Aluminium foundry in the UK as well as establishing a company in Birmingham which produced castings for automotive and aircraft industries.



Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens
Located in Burdon Road, entry is free to one of Sunderland’s most striking landmarks.  The Museum and Winter Gardens are home to a number of collections which a focus on the industrial and social history of the North East. Visitors can enjoy examples of works by L S Lowry together with glass and pottery exhibits that are on display, with natural history and archaeology artefacts and samples also on offer.

Hylton Castle
The magnificent Hlyton Castle is located in the grounds on Craigavon Road, and close to St Catherine’s Chapel.  Built by Sir William Hylton, is it the second oldest building in Sunderland, dating back to the late 1390’s. Said to be haunted by the Cauld Lad, the Castle Gatehouse now stands alone and is free for all to visit.

The Empire Theatre
Sunderland’s Empire Theatre is located in High Street West and is a historic landmark that dates back to 1907.  With a seated capacity of 1,860 it remains one of the largest venues of the North East.  The original statue of Terpsichore which used to adorn the top of the doomed roof is now situated within the theatre itself, which is one of the last theatres to have 4 tiers from which the audiences can enjoy performances, one of which was the debut of Tommy Steel.

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