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Clockwise, from top: Echo 24 and the Wearmouth Bridge, Roker Lighthouse, the National Glass Centre, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Fulwell Mill and Penshaw Monument
Sunderland is located in Tyne and Wear
Population 174,286 (2011 Census)
Demonym Mackem
OS grid reference NZ395575
• London 240 miles (390 km) SSE
Metropolitan borough
Metropolitan county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district SR1–SR6
Dialling code 0191
Police Northumbria
Fire Tyne and Wear
Ambulance North East
EU Parliament North East England
UK Parliament
  • Houghton and Sunderland South
  • Sunderland Central
  • Washington and Sunderland West
List of places
Tyne and Wear
54°54′22″N 1°22′52″W / 54.906°N 1.381°W / 54.906; -1.381

Sunderland is a port city in Northern England. It is the City of Sunderland's administrative centre, within the Tyne and Wear metropolitan county, historic county of Durham and the North East Combined Authority area. The city is 10 miles (16 km) from Newcastle-upon-Tyne and is on the River Wear's mouth to the North Sea, the river also flows through Durham city roughly 12 miles (19 km) south-west of the city's centre.

Locals from the city are sometimes known as Mackems. The term originated as recently as the early 1980s, its use and acceptance by residents, particularly among the older generations, is not universal. At one time, ships built on the Wear were called "Jamies", in contrast with those from the Tyne, which were known as "Geordies", although in the case of "Jamie" it is not known whether this was ever extended to people.

There were three original settlements by the River's mouth which are part of the modern-day city: Monkwearmouth settled in 674 on the river's north bank with King Ecgfrith of Northumbria land granting to Benedict Biscop to found a monastery which, together with Jarrow monastery, later formed the dual Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Abbey; Sunderland settled in 685 and Bishopwearmouth founded in 930, the later two are on the Wear's southern bank. The second settlement on the wear's mouth grew as a fishing settlement and later as a port, being granted a town charter in 1179. The town started to trade coal and salt with ships starting to be built on the river in the 14th century. By the 19th century, with a population increase due to shipbuilding, port and docks the town absorbed the other two settlements. Following decline of its traditional industries in the late 20th century, the area became a automotive building centre, science-and-technology and the service sector. In 1992, the borough of Sunderland was granted city status.


Early history

In 674, Benedict Biscop built the Wearmouth (St. Peter's) monastery. He was given the land by King Ecgfrith of Northumbria. Biscop's monastery was the first monastery built of stone in Northumbria. Biscop brought glass makers from France. This was the start of glass making in Britain.

In 686, the community was taken over by Ceolfrid, and Wearmouth monastery and its other site in Jarrow became very important places of learning in Anglo-Saxon England. The library had about 300 books; all of them were hand written and painted.

St peters sunderland
St. Peter's Church in Monkwearmouth. Only the porch and part of the west wall are what remain of the original monastery built in 674.

The Codex Amiatinus, was written and painted at the monastery and was probably worked on by Bede who was born at Wearmouth in 673. Bede wrote the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) in 731. This is why he is often called The father of English history. In the late eighth century, the Vikings began to raid the coast, and by the middle of the ninth century, the monastery had been abandoned.

In 930, King Athelstan of England gave the land on the south bank of the river to the Bishop of Durham. This is why the area is still called Bishopwearmouth.

By 1100, the Bishopwearmouth parish included a small fishing village at the mouth of the river (modern day East End) known as 'Soender-land', or Asunder-land which became Sunderland. This settlement was granted a charter in 1179 by Hugh Pudsey, then the Bishop of Durham.

By 1346, ships were being built at Wearmouth. The merchant Thomas Menville started building ships so he could transport the things he wanted to sell.

In 1589, salt making started in Sunderland. Large vats, called ‘’panns’’, of seawater were put on coal fires. When the water boiled, the salt was left behind. This is known as salt panning. Today, the road leading to where the pans were is still called Pann's Bank. It is on the river bank near the city centre. As more coal was needed to heat the salt pans, coal mining started in the area. Only poor quality coal was used in salt panning; the best coal was sold and shipped out of the town. This is why the port began to grow. This put Sunderland in competition for the first time with its coal-trading neighbour Newcastle.

17th and 18th centuries

Holy Trinity church, built in 1719.

Before the English Civil War in 1642, King Charles I said Newcastle could be the only town in the east of England which could send coal by ship. This had a big impact on Sunderland, which was selling more and more coal. This created resentment towards Newcastle and towards the idea of having a king. When the civil war began, the mainly Protestant Sunderland sided with Parliament against the mostly Catholic Newcastle. This was good for Sunderland's business, because Parliament blockaded (blocked) the Tyne. This stopped the Newcastle coal trade and allowed the Sunderland coal trade to grow. When an army from Scotland came to fight the King, its base was set up in Sunderland.

The River Wear was not very deep, so the coal had to be loaded onto big boats called keels and taken downriver to the coal ships which were called colliers.

In 1719, Sunderland and Bishopwearmouth were too big for the only parish church, which was in Bishopwearmouth. A new parish of Sunderland was created and Holy Trinity, Sunderland parish church was built. The three original settlements of Wearmouth (Bishopwearmouth, Monkwearmouth and Sunderland) had started to join up. This was because of the success of the port of Sunderland as well as the salt panning and the shipbuilding along the banks of the Wear. Around this time, Sunderland was also known as 'Sunderland-near-the-Sea'.

19th century


Local government was divided between the three churches (Holy Trinity, Sunderland, St. Michael's, Bishopwearmouth, and St. Peter's Church, Monkwearmouth). When cholera broke out in 1831, the "select vestrymen", as the church councillors were called, did not know what to do about the epidemic. Many were frightened to say that a disease has started because it might stop their businesses from making money. They printed notices which said there was no disease in the town, and saying that the doctors who said that there was disease did not know what they were talking about.

Sunderland was a big trading port at the time. It was the first British town to be affected by 'Indian cholera' epidemic. The first victim, William Sproat, died on 23 October 1831. Sunderland was put under quarantine, so that people could not leave the town. The port was blockaded, so that ships could not spread the disease to other ports. But in December of that year, cholera was in Gateshead and it spread across the country, killing about 32,000 people.

Jack Crawford was one of the first to die in the epidemic. There are two statues honouring Jack, one in Mowbray Park near the Civic Centre, and the other next to Holy Trinity Church.

Sunderland got its first Member of Parliament after the Reform Act of 1832, and the Borough of Sunderland was created in 1836, although impatient citizens elected Andrew White to be Mayor in December 1835.


Wearmouth bridge
The Wearmouth Bridge

The river at Sunderland is in a narrow valley, and the town grew up on plateaus high above the river. This meant it never had the problem of allowing people to cross the river without stopping high masted vessels. Rowland Burdon MP pushed for the Wearmouth Bridge, which was built in 1796. It was the second iron bridge ever built. Only the famous Iron Bridge itself is older, but Wearmouth bridge was over twice as long and only three-quarters the weight of the Iron Bridge. Wearmouth Bridge was the biggest single span bridge in the world. Farther up the river, another bridge, the Queen Alexandra Bridge, was built in 1910, linking the areas of Pallion and Southwick. It was designed for trains to run across, too, but the railway section was never completed.

Victoria Hall Disaster

The Victoria Hall was a large concert hall on Toward Road facing Mowbray Park. On 16 June 1883, 183 children died. During a variety show, children rushed down the stairs for treats. At the bottom of the staircase, the door only opened inward and was bolted so that only one child at a time could get through. The children pushed down the stairs to the door. Those at the front were trapped, and were crushed by the weight of the crowd behind them.

The Victoria Hall disaster is still the worst of its kind in Britain. A memorial statue, which is a crying mother holding a dead child, is now back in Mowbray Park with a protective canopy. The newspaper reports of the tragedy were so shocking that an inquiry was set up. This committee said that public buildings should have outward opening emergency exits. This led to the invention of 'push bar' emergency doors. This law still remains in full force to this day. The Victoria Hall was used until 1941 when it was destroyed by a German bomb.

20th century to present

As the traditional industries have declined, electronics, chemicals, and paper making have replaced them. Some of these new industries, are in Washington, which has more space to allow purpose built factories. The Nissan car plant and the nearby North East Aircraft Museum are on the site of the old Sunderland Airport.

Sunderland - taken from Tunstall Hill, August 1989

Since 1990, industries along the banks of the Wear have changed a lot. Housing, shopping parks and business centres have been built where the shipbuilding yards were. The National Glass Centre is also there, next to the University of Sunderland’s new “St Peter’s Campus”. On the south side of the river, the old Vaux Brewery site has been cleared so that new houses, shops and offices can be built close to the city centre.

Sunderland was the one of the most heavily bombed areas in England during World War II. As a result, much of the town centre was rebuilt in a boring concrete style. But some fine old buildings remain. These include Holy Trinity, built in 1719 for an independent Sunderland, St. Michaels's Church, built as Bishopwearmouth Parish Church and now known as Sunderland Minster and St. Peter's Church, Monkwearmouth, part of which dates from 674 AD, and was the original monastery. St. Andrew's Roker, so-called "Cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement", contains work by William Morris, Ernest Gimson and Eric Gill.

Civic history

Sunderland Civic Centre (right background) with Mowbray Park to the left

Sunderland was made a municipal borough of County Durham in 1835. Under the Local Government Act 1888, it was given further status as a county borough with independence from county council control. In 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, the county borough was abolished and its area combined with that of other districts to form the Metropolitan Borough of Sunderland in Tyne and Wear. See City of Sunderland.


Sunderland has the motto of Nil Desperandum Auspice Deo. This means Never Despair, Trust In God


Much of the city is on a low range of hills running parallel to the coast. On average, it is around 80 metres above sea level. Sunderland is divided by the River Wear which passes through the middle of the city in a deep valley, part of which is known as the Hylton gorge. The only two road bridges connecting the north and south halves of the City are the Queen Alexandra Bridge at Pallion and the Wearmouth Bridge just to the north of the City centre. A third bridge carries the A19 trunk road over the Wear to the West of the City.

Most of the suburbs of Sunderland are west of the city centre with 70% of its population living on the south side of the river and 30% on the north side. The city extends to the seafront at Hendon and Ryhope (on the south) and Seaburn (on the north).

The area is part of the Anglican Diocese of Durham. It has been in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle since the Catholic bishops returned in 1850.

Alphabetical street naming of suburbs

Some Sunderland suburbs have most streets beginning with the same letter:

  • A: Farringdon
  • B: Town End Farm
  • C: Hylton Castle
  • D: Seaburn (some parts)
  • E: Carley Hill
  • F: Ford Estate
  • G: Grindon
  • H: Hylton Lane
  • K: Downhill
  • M: Moorside
  • P: Pennywell and Plains Farm
  • R: Red House
  • S: Springwell
  • T: Thorney Close
  • W: Witherwack


Sunderland has cool winters and warm summers. Being on the coast, Sunderland is a little warmer in the winter than the national average, but a little cooler in summer. Average rainfall is below the UK national average due to an east coast location.

As with most UK east-coast towns, Sunderland sometimes gets sea fog known locally as Fret. This is most common in the summer months (April - September). These frets can be very dense, are often very localised, and can appear and disappear in a matter of minutes.


Population of Sunderland urban area

by ward - (2001 Census)

Ward Population
Ryhope 13,852
Central 12,398
Silksworth 12,295
Pallion 10,693
Hendon 10,377
South Hylton 10,317
St. Michael's 10,267
Thornholme 10,214
St. Chad's 10,006
Thorney Close 9,938
Grindon 9,548
South total: 119,905
Castletown 10,322
St. Peter's 10,264
Fulwell 10,171
Town End Farm 9,381
Colliery 9,006
Southwick 8,690
North total: 57,834
City total: 177,739

Sunderland is the largest city, by population and area, between Leeds and Edinburgh.

The City of Sunderland is the 22nd largest borough in England and the largest in the North East. However, as well as including the Sunderland it also includes a number of surrounding towns and villages, such as Washington, Houghton-le-Spring and Hetton-le-Hole.


98.1% of the population are white, with 1% Asian and 0.4% mixed-race.

In 2001, the most ethnically mixed ward of the city was the (now abolished) Thornholme area - just to the south of the city centre Thornholme included the suburbs of Ashbrooke and Eden Vale. Here, 89.4% are white, 7.8% are Asian and 1.3% are mixed-race.

The least ethnically diverse wards are in the north of the city. The area of Castletown is made up of 99.3% white, 0.4% Asian and 0.2% mixed-race.


According to census statistics, 81.5% of Sunderland residents class themselves as Christian, 9.6% have no religion, 0.7% are Muslim and 7.6% did not wish to give their religion.

Only 114 people of Jewish faith live in Sunderland. There was no Jewish community before 1750, but then a number of Jewish businessmen from across the UK and Europe settled in Sunderland. A Rabbi from Holland was working in the city in 1790. The Jewish community has been shrinking since the mid 20th century. Many Sunderland Jews left for bigger Jewish communities in Britain or to Israel. The Jewish primary school, the Menorah School, closed in July 1983. The synagogue on Ryhope Road (opened in 1928) closed at the end of March 2006.

Culture and attractions

Literature and art

Lewis Carroll often visited to the area. He wrote most of "Jabberwocky" at Whitburn as well as "The Walrus and the Carpenter". Some parts of the area are believed to be the inspiration for his Alice in Wonderland stories, such as Hylton Castle and Backhouse Park. There is a statue to Carroll in Whitburn library. Lewis Carroll was also a visitor to the Rectory of Holy Trinity Church, Southwick, beforeSouthwick became a part of Sunderland. Carroll's connection with Sunderland, and the area's history, is documented in Bryan Talbot's 2007 graphic novel Alice in Sunderland.

More recently, Sunderland-born Terry Deary, writer of the series of Horrible Histories books, has become famous, and many others such as thriller writer Sheila Quigley, are following his lead.

The Manchester painter, L S Lowry, was another frequent visitor, staying in the Seaburn Hotel in Sunderland. Many of his paintings of seascapes and shipbuilding are based on Wearside scenes.

The Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art on Fawcett Street and Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens have exhibitions and installations from new and established artists alike. Sunderland Museum has a big collection of LS Lowry. The National Glass Centre on Liberty Way also exhibits a number of glass sculptures.


Sunderland has produced a number of musicians that have gone on to reach international fame, most notably Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. Kenickie, which featured Lauren Laverne on vocals, also achieved a top ten album and wide critical acclaim in the mid-to-late-1990s. In recent years, the underground music scene and the Sunderland Music Project have helped the likes of The Futureheads and Field Music gain national recognition. In 2004, music magazine NME put Sunderland came 8th in a list of the "coolest" music places in the UK.

Other famous Mackem musicians include punk rockers The Toy Dolls, who broke the top five of the charts with "Nellie the Elephant" in December 1984; the lead singer of dance outfit Olive, Ruth Ann Boyle, who now works with Enigma; A Tribe of Toffs made number 21 with their cult hit "John Kettley is a weatherman" in December 1988; Alex Kapranos of the band Franz Ferdinand also grew up in Sunderland and South Shields.

On the 7 and 8 May 2005, Sunderland hosted the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend concert - the UK's largest free music festival. The event was held at Herrington Country Park, in the shadow of Penshaw Monument and was attended by 30,000 visitors.

Sunderland does not have a big music venue such as the MetroRadio Arena or the Carling Academy in Newcastle. The Empire Theatre sometimes plays host to music acts, and has attracted Deacon Blue and Journey South to the city in recent years. McFly played there in April 2007. In the past it has also welcomed major bands such as The Beatles and The Kinks.

Independent, a city centre nightclub/music venue, satisfies underground music lovers, having previously played host to Keane, Franz Ferdinand, Kasabian, Kaiser Chiefs, Maxïmo Park and Snow Patrol when they were largely unknown. More recently, Doves and Tim Burgess have performed DJ sets on club nights, and in summer 2007 the club hosted gigs from established bands such as The Zutons and The Maccabees. The Manor Quay, the students' union on the campus of the University of Sunderland has also hosted the Arctic Monkeys, Maxïmo Park, 911, the Levellers and Girls Aloud in the past three years.

Clint Boon sometimes deejays in indie venue Ku Club, and the Bluetones did a set there in 2006.

“CoSMOS”, the City of Sunderland Millennium Orchestral Society’’ was set up in 2000 to mark the millennium.


Sunderland Empire
The Sunderland Empire theatre.

The Sunderland Empire Theatre, opened in 1907, is the largest theatre in the North East. It reopened in December 2004, following a big redevelopment, making the stage bigger. Now it can stage West End shows such as Miss Saigon, Starlight Express and My Fair Lady. The Empire is the only theatre between Leeds and Glasgow big enough to put on such shows.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet have a season at the Sunderland Empire every year, and it is thought of as the company's north-east home.

The Royalty Theatre is the home to the (amateur) Royalty Theatre group who also put on a number of low-budget productions throughout the year. Well-known movie producer David Parfitt belonged to this company before achieving worldwide fame.


Each year on the last weekend in July, the city hosts the Sunderland International Airshow. It takes place along the sea front at Roker and Seaburn, and is attended by over 1.2 million people annually. It is the largest free airshow in Europe.

Sunderland also hosts the free International Festival of Kites, Music and Dance, which attracts kite-makers from around the world to Northumbria Playing Fields, Washington.

Every year, the city hosts a large Remembrance Day memorial, believed to be the largest in the UK outside of London.

HMS Ocean, a Helicopter Landing Ship is Sunderland's adopted Royal Navy ship. The crew of HMS Ocean regularly visit the city.

At Christmas, Sunderland has a German market in the city centre selling German-made wooden goods, and German food. It also hosts a large ice rink in Mowbray Park, which is part of the wider, regional North East Winter Festival.


Traditional attractions for visitors to Sunderland include Penshaw Monument, the Souter Lighthouse (the first electrically powered lighthouse in the world), the 15th century Hylton Castle, the Wildfowl park in Washington, and the beaches of Roker and Seaburn.

The National Glass Centre opened in 1998, reflecting Sunderland's distinguished history of glass-making. The centre has never been as successful as hoped.

Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, on Borough Road, was the first publically funded museum in the country outside London. It was opened by Ulysses S. Grant shortly after he stopped being US President. The museum has a big collection of the locally produced Sunderland Lustreware pottery. The new City Library Arts Centre, on Fawcett Street, also houses the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art.

The City of Sunderland has been commended several times on its commitment to preserving its natural environment. Sunderland has won awards from the Britain in Bloom group in 1993, 1997 and 2000.



Since the mid-1980s Sunderland has undergone massive regeneration, particularly around the City Centre and the river corridor, following the industrial decline of the 1970s and early 1980s.

In the mid-1980s, Sunderland's economic situation began to improve following the collapse of the local shipbuilding industry. Japanese car manufacturer Nissan opened the Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK factory in 1986, and the first Nissan Bluebird car was produced later that year. The factory and its supplier companies remain the largest employers in the region, with current cars produced there including the Nissan Qashqai, the Nissan Juke and the electric Nissan LEAF. As of 2012 over 500,000 cars are produced annually, and it is the UK's largest car factory.

Also in the late 1980s, new service industries moved into sites such as the Doxford International Business Park in the south west of the city, attracting national and international companies. Sunderland was named in the shortlist of the top seven "intelligent cities" in the world for the use of information technology, in 2004 and 2005.

The former shipyards along the Wear were transformed with a mixture of residential, commercial and leisure facilities including St Peter's Campus of the University of Sunderland, University accommodation along the Fish Quay on the South side of the river, the North Haven housing and marina development, the National Glass Centre, the Stadium of Light and Hylton Riverside Retail Park. Also in 2007, the Echo 24 luxury apartments opened on Pann's Bank overlooking the river. In 2008 the Sunderland Aquatic Centre opened adjacent to the Stadium of Light, containing the only Olympic-size swimming pool between Leeds and Edinburgh. In 2000, the Bridges shopping centre was extended towards Crowtree Road and the former Central Bus Station, attracting national chain stores. This was followed by adjacent redevelopments on Park Lane.

Sunderland Corporation's massive post-war housing estate developments at Farringdon, Pennywell and Grindon have all passed into the ownership of Gentoo Group (previously 'Sunderland Housing Group'), a private company and a Registered Social Landlord.

Sunderland A.F.C. has been a major symbol of the area and a contributor to the local economy since the late 19th century. The club was one of the most successful and best supported clubs in the English game during this era, with its home at Roker Park holding more than 70,000 spectators at its peak. However, the FA Cup triumph of 1973 would prove to be the club's only postwar major trophy to date, and after its relegation in 1958 the club frequently bounced between the top two divisions of English football, and in 1987 and again in 2018 suffered relegation to the third tier of English football. The club played at Roker Park for 99 years until the completion of the new Stadium of Light at Monkwearmouth on the banks of the River Wear in 1997. The new stadium seated more than 42,000 on its completion, and has since been expanded to hold some 49,000 spectators. Sunderland's relatively high attendances have been a major boost to the local economy – averaging at more than 30,000 even during the club's current spell in the third tier of English football.

In 2004, redevelopment work began in the Sunniside area in the east-end of the city centre, including a multiplex cinema, a multi-storey car park, restaurants, a casino and tenpin bowling. Originally the River Quarter, the site was renamed Limelight in 2005, and renamed in 2008, when it became Sunniside Leisure. Sunniside Gardens were landscaped, and a number of new cafes, bars and restaurants were opened. Up-market residential apartments were developed, including the Echo 24 building.

Sunderland City Council's Unitary Development Plan (UDP) outlines ambitious regeneration plans for a number of sites around the city. The plans are supported by Sunderland Arc, an urban regeneration company funded by the City council, One NorthEast and the Homes and Communities Agency.

Vaux and Farringdon Row

Since the closure of the Vaux brewery in 1999, a 26-acre (11-hectare) brownfield site has lain dormant in the centre of Sunderland. The land is subject to dispute between supermarket chain Tesco, who bought the site in 2001, and Sunderland arc, who submitted plans for its redevelopment in 2002. During formal negotiations, Tesco stated they would be willing to sell the land to arc, if an alternative city centre site could be found. Possibilities include Holmeside Triangle, and the Sunderland Retail Park in Roker. Arc hope to begin development in 2010. Arc's plans for the site were approved by the Secretary of State in 2007, and include extensive office space, hotels, leisure and retail units, residential apartments and a new £50 m Crown and Magistrates' court. The central public arcade will be located under an expansive glass canopy. It is hoped an "evening economy" can be encouraged which will complement the city's nightlife. In 2013 in the area opposite the Vaux site, Sunderland City Council announced the Keel Square project, a new public space designed to commemorate Sunderand's maritime heritage, which was completed in May 2015. Construction commenced in 2014.

Stadium Village

Redevelopment of the Monkwearmouth Colliery site, which sits on the north bank of the river Wear opposite the Vaux site, began in the mid-1990s with the creation of the Stadium of Light. In 2008, it was joined by the Sunderland Aquatic Centre. The Sheepfolds industrial estate occupies a large area of land between the Stadium and the Wearmouth Bridge. Sunderland Arc were in the process of purchasing land in the Sheepfolds, with a view to relocate the businesses and redevelop the site. The emphasis of development plans included further sporting facilities, in order to create a Sports Village. Other plans included a hotel, residential accommodation, and a footbridge linking the site with the Vaux development.

Grove and Transport Corridor

The Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor (SSTC) is a proposed transport link from the A19, through the city centre, to the port. A major phase of the plan was the creation of a new bridge, the Northern Spire Bridge, which links the A1231 Wessington Way on the north of the river with the Grove site in Pallion, on the south of the river. In 2008, Sunderland City Council offered the residents of Sunderland the opportunity to vote on the design of the bridge. The choices were a 180-metre (590 ft) iconic cable-stayed bridge, which would result in a temporary increase in council tax, or a simple box structure which would be within the council's budget. The results of the consultation were inconclusive, with residents keen to have an iconic bridge, but reluctant to have a subsequent increase in tax to fund it. Regardless of the ultimate design of the new bridge, the landing point will be the former Grove Cranes site in Pallion. Plans for this site focus around the creation of a new residential area, with homes, community buildings, commercial and retail space.

The Port

The Port of Sunderland, owned by the city council, has been earmarked for medium-term redevelopment with a focus on mixed-use industry.

Ship building and coal mining

Shipbuilding during the First World War Q20119
A group of boys who worked on the construction of a Standard ship at a yard in Sunderland during the First World War
Radiant II is launched into the River Wear (14508024713)
A ship (Radiant II) launched into the River Wear by Austin & Pickersgill, 29 March 1961

Once hailed as the "Largest Shipbuilding Town in the World", ships were built on the Wear from at least 1346 onwards and by the mid-18th century Sunderland was one of the chief shipbuilding towns in the country. Sunderland Docks was the home of operations for the shipbuilding industry on Wearside. The Port of Sunderland was significantly expanded in the 1850s with the construction of Hudson Dock to designs by River Wear Commissioner's Engineer John Murray, with consultancy by Robert Stephenson. One famous vessel was the Torrens, the clipper in which Joseph Conrad sailed, and on which he began his first novel. She was one of the most famous ships of her time and can claim to be the finest ship ever launched from a Sunderland yard.

An Aerial view of Sunderland (9105585273)
Sunderland Docks in 1969

Between 1939 and 1945 the Wear yards launched 245 merchant ships totalling 1.5 million tons, a quarter of the merchant tonnage produced in the UK at this period. Competition from overseas caused a downturn in demand for Sunderland built ships toward the end of the 20th century. The last shipyard in Sunderland closed on 7 December 1988.

Sunderland, part of the Durham coalfield, has a coal-mining heritage that dates back centuries. At its peak in 1923, 170,000 miners were employed in County Durham alone, as labourers from all over Britain, including many from Scotland and Ireland, entered the region. As demand for coal slipped following World War II, mines began to close across the region, causing mass unemployment. The last coal mine closed in 1994. The site of the last coal mine, Wearmouth Colliery, is now occupied by the Stadium of Light, and a miner's Davy lamp monument stands outside of the ground to honour the site's mining heritage. Documentation relating to the region's coalmining heritage are stored at the North East England Mining Archive and Resource Centre (NEEMARC).

Other industry

Sunderland Liebherr Riverside
The Liebherr crane factory is the last remaining heavy industry on the River Wear in Sunderland.

As with the coal-mining and shipbuilding, overseas competition has forced the closure of all of Sunderland's glass-making factories. Corning Glass Works, in Sunderland for 120 years, closed on 31 March 2007 and in January 2007, the Pyrex manufacturing site also closed, bringing to an end commercial glass-making in the city. However, there has been a modest rejuvenation with the opening of the National Glass Centre which, amongst other things, provides international glass makers with working facilities and a shop to showcase their work, predominantly in the artistic rather than functional field.

Vaux Breweries was established in the town centre in the 1880s and for 110 years was a major employer. Following a series of consolidations in the British Brewing industry, however, the brewery was finally closed in July 1999. Vaux in Sunderland and Wards in Sheffield had been part of the Vaux Group, but with the closure of both breweries it was re-branded The Swallow Group, concentrating on the hotel side of the business. This was subject to a successful take-over by Whitbread PLC in the autumn of 2000. It is now a brownfield site and this is a derelict site in an urban area.

In 1855, John Candlish opened a bottleworks, producing glass bottles, with 6 sites at nearby Seaham and at Diamond Hall, Sunderland.



Sunderland Metro Map
Sunderland-oriented Metro map; dashed lines indicate omitted stations
Pallion station 02
Pallion Metro station on the Tyne and Wear Metro

In May 2002, the Tyne and Wear Metro was extended to Sunderland in an official ceremony attended by The Queen, 22 years after it originally opened in Newcastle upon Tyne. The Green line now stretches deeper into South Tyneside and into Sunderland; it incorporates Seaburn, Millfield, Pallion, as well as Sunderland's mainline railway station and stations at the Park Lane Transport Interchange and both campuses of the University of Sunderland, before terminating at South Hylton. The trains run every 12–15 minutes, depending on the time of day, and call at all stations. All-zones Metro tickets cost £5.20 for a daily and £22.40 for a weekly, as of October 2019.

In March 2014, Metro owner Nexus proposed an extension of the network by the creation of an 'on-street' tram link which would connect the city centre to South Shields to the north and Doxford Park to the west.


Sunderland station has 5 direct trains to London King's Cross on weekdays (5 on Saturday / 4 on Sunday), taking about 3 hours 30 minutes. Newcastle is a 30-minute Tyne & Wear Metro ride (see above) from Sunderland city centre, and has connecting services to London every half hour that take approximately 2 hours 45 minutes and also regular services to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester Piccadilly, Liverpool Lime Street, Birmingham and beyond.

Sunderland station Metro platforms
Sunderland railway and Metro station
Grand Central operate five daily services from Sunderland to London King's Cross

Sunderland station opened in 1879 but was completely redesigned to facilitate football teams and officials from countries who were drawn to play at Roker Park during England's hosting of the 1966 World Cup. It is situated on an underground level. It was renovated in 2005, backed by the artistic team which designed the stations along the Wearside extension of the Tyne & Wear Metro in 2002. It is situated on the Durham Coast Line served by direct Northern services to Newcastle, Hartlepool, Stockton and Middlesbrough, as well as further afield to Hexham, Carlisle and the Gateshead MetroCentre. These services run hourly in each direction, cut from half-hourly on 12 December 2005 (but towards Newcastle there is also the option of taking the Metro – see the Metro subsection above).

From 1998 to 2004, Northern Spirit and subsequently Arriva Trains Northern ran two-hourly direct trains from Sunderland to Liverpool Lime Street via Durham, Darlington, York, Leeds and Manchester. The services were withdrawn due to a change of franchise which saw the First TransPennine Express route gain a franchise in its own right, distinct from the Regional Railways network which Arriva had inherited. Services now terminate at Newcastle and a separate service also travels to Middlesbrough, but both only stretch as far as Manchester Airport.

In 2006, Grand Central announced plans to operate a direct service between Sunderland and London King's Cross via York, a service which had been stripped from Wearside twenty years earlier. A scaled-down service of one train each day began in December 2007, twelve months after the initial launch date, due to delays caused by restoring rolling stock and a protracted court case against GNER (which Grand Central won). The service increased to three departures daily each way on 1 March 2008, connecting a line which can run from Edinburgh to London. The service has proved so popular that daily fourth and fifth direct trains are now in operation.

When Virgin Trains East Coast were announced as the winners of the InterCity East Coast franchise in November 2014, their plans included a daily service from Sunderland to London Kings Cross that commenced in December 2015.


Newcastle Airport is a 55-minute Metro ride from Sunderland city centre; there is a Metro train connecting with the airport every 12–15 minutes in both directions until about 11 pm, Monday-Sunday. Teesside International Airport can be reached in less than one hour by car.


Main roads in sunderland
Illustration of the main roads through Sunderland

The fastest, largest and busiest road is the A19, which is a dual carriageway running north-to-south along the western edge of the urban area, crossing the River Wear at Hylton, and providing access north to the Tyne Tunnel, joining up with the A1 to Edinburgh, and south through Teesside, joining up with the A1M via the A168 at Thirsk, providing an entirely grade separated connection between Sunderland and the M1 motorway. The A19 originally ran through Sunderland city centre until the bypass was built in the 1970s; this route is now the A1018.

There are four main roads which support the city centre:

The A690 Durham Road terminates in the city centre and runs to Crook, County Durham via the city of Durham.

The A1231 (Sunderland Highway) begins in the city centre, crosses the Queen Alexandra Bridge and runs west through Washington to the A1. Most of this road is national speed limit dual carriageway.

The A1018 and A183 roads both start in the centre of South Shields and enter Sunderland from the north, before merging to cross the Wearmouth Bridge. The A1018 follows a direct route from Shields to Sunderland, the A183 follows the coast. After crossing the bridge, the A1018 follows a relatively straight path to the south of Sunderland where it merges with the A19. The A183 becomes Chester Road and heads west out of the city to the A1 at Chester-le-Street.

In Autumn 2007, the Southern Radial Route was opened. This is a bypass of the A1018 through Grangetown and Ryhope – a stretch that commonly suffered from congestion, especially during rush hour. The bypass starts just south of Ryhope, and runs parallel to the cliff tops into Hendon, largely avoiding residential areas.

The Sunderland strategic transport corridor project is an ongoing investment to the city's road infrastructure. The scheme will improve transport links around the city ensuring continuous dual carriageway between the A19 road and the port of Sunderland. The scheme also includes the building of a new wear bridge between Pallion on the south embankment and Castletown to the north.


Buses in Park Lane Interchange - - 1748466
Go North East buses in Park Lane Interchange

A multimillion-pound transport interchange at Park Lane was opened on 2 May 1999 by the then Brookside actor Michael Starke. With 750,000 passengers per year, it is the busiest bus and coach station in Britain after Victoria Coach Station in Central London and has won several awards for innovative design. The majority of bus services in Sunderland are provided by Stagecoach in Sunderland and Go North East, with a handful of services provided by Arriva North East. Besides these, there are also cross-country and inter-city route buses mainly operated by National Express and Megabus. A new Metro station was built underneath the bus concourse to provide a direct interchange as part of the extension to South Hylton in 2002.


There are a number of cycle routes that run through and around Sunderland. The National Cycle Network National Route 1 runs from Ryhope in the south, through the centre of the city and then along the coast towards South Shields. Britain's most popular long-distance cycle route – The 'C2C' Sea to Sea Cycle Route – traditionally starts or ends when the cyclist dips their wheel in the sea on Roker beach. The 'W2W' 'Wear-to-Walney' route and the 'Two-Rivers' (Tyne and Wear) route also terminate in Sunderland.


Sunderland harbour
Sunderland harbour viewed from the north dock

The Port of Sunderland is the second largest municipally-owned port in the United Kingdom. The port offers a total of 17 quays, which handle cargoes including forest products, non-ferrous metals, steel, aggregates and refined oil products, limestone, chemicals and maritime cranes. It also handles offshore supply vessels and has ship repair and drydocking facilities.

The river berths are deepwater and tidal, while the South Docks are entered via a lock with an 18.9-metre (62 ft) beam restriction.

Famous residents

Developer of the electric lightbulb Joseph Swan, agony aunt Denise Robertson, rockers 'The Futureheads' and Alex Kapranos of 'Franz Ferdinand', Civil liberty campaigner Chris Mullin MP, radio DJ and singer Lauren Laverne, football manager Bob Paisley, actor James Bolam, movie producer David Parfitt, lead singer of 'Olive' Ruth-Ann Boyle, author Lewis Carroll, artist LS Lowry, journalist Kate Adie, and the Venerable Bede are a few of the many famous people born in or associated with Sunderland. For a more detailed list, see List of famous residents of Sunderland.

Related pages


Population of Sunderland urban area, 2001
by ward
Ward Population
Castle 11,292
Fulwell 12,906
Redhill 11,867
St Peter's 11,760
Southwick 11,634
Northside total: 59,459
Barnes 12,030
Doxford 11,318
Hendon 11,551
Millfield 10,277
Pallion 10,385
Ryhope 11,217
St Anne's 11,409
St Chad's 10,922
St Michael's 11,626
Sandhill 11,319
Silksworth 11,245
Southside total: 123,299
City total: 182,758

At 3,874 hectares, Sunderland is the 45th largest urban area in England by measure of area, with a population density of 45.88 people per hectare.

According to statistics based on the 2001 census, 60% of homes in the Sunderland metropolitan area are owner occupied, with an average household size of 2.4 people. Three percent of the homes have no permanent residents.

The most ethnically diverse ward of the city was the (now defunct) Thornholme area which had a population of 10,214 in 2001. This ward, which included Eden Vale, Thornhill, as well as parts of Hendon, Ashbrooke and the city centre, has long been the focus of Wearside's Bangladeshi community. In Thornholme, 89.4% are white (86.3% White British), 7.8% are Asian and 1.3% are mixed-race. Today, the Barnes ward, which contains part of former Thornholme ward, has the highest percentage (5.4%) of Bangladeshi residents in the city, with people of this ethnicity being the ward's only significant ethnic minority. The 2001 census also recorded a substantial concentration of Greek nationals, living mainly in Central and Thornholme wards. The least ethnically diverse wards are in the north of the city. The area of Castletown is made up of 99.3% white, 0.4% Asian and 0.2% mixed-race.

The Sunderland USD had a population of 174,286 in 2011 compared with 275,506 for the wider city. Both of these figures are a decrease compared with 2001 figures that showed the Sunderland USD had a population of 182,758 compared with 280,807 for the wider city.

In 2011, the Millfield ward, which contains the western half of the city centre, was the most ethnically diverse ward in Sunderland. Millfield is a multiracial area with large Indian and Bangladeshi communities, being the centre of Wearside's Bangladeshi community along with neighbouring Barnes. The ward's ethnicity was, in 2011, 76.4% White (73.5% White British), 17.6% Asian and 2.5% Black. Other wards with high ethnic minority populations include Hendon, Barnes, St Michael's and St Peter's. In 2011, the least ethnically diverse ward was the Northside suburb Redhill which was 99.0% White (98.3% White British), 0.3% Asian and 0.1% Black.

Here is a table comparing Sunderland and the wider City of Sunderland Metropolitan Borough as well as North East England.

2011 Census Ethnic Groups White British Asian Black
Sunderland (Urban Subdivision) 93.4% 3.6% 0.6%
Metropolitan Borough of Sunderland 94.8% 2.6% 0.5%
North East England 93.6% 2.8% 0.5%

The Sunderland Urban Subdivision is made up of all the wards listed on the table on the right hand side. In the Sunderland Urban Subdivision, 6.6% of the population were from an ethnic minority group (non white British) compared with 5.2% in the surrounding borough. Sunderland is less ethnically diverse than Gateshead and South Shields, mainly because of many outlying suburbs to the south, north and west of the city such as St Chad's, Southwick and Fulwell which have very high White British populations. The Sunderland Central Parliament constituency largely omits these areas. However, in 2001, the Sunderland USD was 96.6% White British, so the ethnic minority population is increasing.


The area is part of the Anglican Diocese of Durham. It has been in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle since the Catholic hierarchy was restored in 1850. The 2011 census recorded that 70.2% of the population identified as Christian, 1.32% as Muslim, 0.29% as Sikh, 0.22% as Hindu, 0.19% as Buddhist, 0.02% as Jewish, and 21.90% as having no religion.

Jewish heritage in the city, once part of a thriving community, can be dated back to around 1750, when a number of Jewish merchants from across the UK and Europe settled in Sunderland, eventually forming a congregation in 1768. A rabbi from Holland was established in the city in 1790. After a rapid growth in numbers during the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Jewish community in Sunderland reached its height in the mid 1930s, when around 2,000 Jews were recorded to be living in the town. The community has been in slow decline since the mid-20th century. Many Sunderland Jews left for stronger Jewish communities in Britain, including Gateshead, or to Israel. The Jewish primary school, the Menorah School, closed in July 1983. The synagogue on Ryhope Road, opened in 1928, closed at the end of March 2006. (See also Jews and Judaism in North East England) The Jewish population of the Sunderland Metropolitan Borough is continually diminishing, as the Jewish population fell from 114 people in 2001, to 76 people in 2011.

In 1998, following the grant of City status to Sunderland, the erstwhile parish church of Bishopwearmouth (St Michael's) was redesignated as Sunderland Minster with a city-wide role. It was believed to have been the first creation of a minster church in England since the Reformation.


The Reverend Alexander Boddy (1854–1930) was appointed vicar of All Saints' Church, Monkwearmouth in 1884. During his ministry at Monkwearmouth, Boddy was influenced by the 1904–1905 Welsh revival and also by the British-born Norwegian preacher Thomas Ball Barratt. In the early years of the 20th century All Saints, Monkwearmouth became an important centre for the development of the Pentecostal Movement in Britain.


Stadium of light from distance
View of the Stadium of Light from the opposite side of the River Wear

The only professional sporting team in Sunderland is the football team, Sunderland A.F.C., and was elected to the Football League in 1890. Sunderland supporters are one of the oldest fan bases in England, and in 2019 it was reported that despite being in League One, Sunderland's average gates were higher than those of such teams as Lyon, Napoli, Roma, Valencia, Juventus, and Porto. The club, which currently plays in EFL League One following consecutive relegations from the FA Premier League and the EFL Championship, is based at the 49,000 seat capacity Stadium of Light, which was opened in 1997. Sunderland A.F.C also has the north-east's top women's football team, Sunderland A.F.C. Women, They currently play in the 3rd tier of English women's football – FA Women's National League North. Despite their financial struggles. Sunderland were league champions six times within the Football League's first half century, but have not achieved this accolade since 1936. Their other notable successes include FA Cup glory in 1937 and 1973 and winning the Division One title with a (then) English league record of 105 points in 1999.

Sunderland AFC's longest stadium occupancy so far was of Roker Park for 99 years beginning in 1898, with relocation taking place due to the stadium's confined location and the need to build an all-seater stadium. The initial relocation plan, announced in the early 1990s, had been for a stadium to be situated alongside the Nissan factory, but these were abandoned in favour of the Stadium of Light at Monkwearmouth on the site of a colliery on the banks of the River Wear that had closed at the end of 1993. The city also has two non-league sides, Sunderland Ryhope Community Association F.C. of the Northern League Division Two and Sunderland West End FC of the Wearside League, who play at the Ford Quarry Complex.

Sunderland's amateur Rugby and Cricket clubs are both based in Ashbrooke. The Ashbrooke ground was opened on 30 May 1887.

The Crowtree Leisure Centre has also played host to a number of important boxing matches and snooker championships including the 2003 Snooker World Trickshot and Premier League Final. In September 2005, BBC TV cameras captured international boxing bouts featuring local boxers David Dolan, Stuart Kennedy and Tony Jeffries. The latter became Sunderland's first Olympic medallist when he won a bronze medal in the light heavyweight boxing category for Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Sunderland Aquatic Centre - - 1665091
Sunderland Aquatic Centre, located next to the Stadium of Light, holds the only Olympic-sized swimming pool in North-East England

On 18 April 2008, the Sunderland Aquatic Centre was opened. Constructed at a cost of £20 million, it is the only Olympic sized 50 m pool between Leeds and Edinburgh and has six diving boards, which stand at 1 m, 3 m and 5 m.

Athletics is also a popular sport in the city, with Sunderland Harriers Athletics Club based at Silksworth Sports Complex. 800 m runner Gavin Massingham represented the club at the AAA Championships in 2005. On 25 June 2006, the first Great Women's Run took place along Sunderland's coastline. Among the field which lined up to start the race were Olympic silver medallists Sonia O'Sullivan of the Republic of Ireland and Gete Wami of Ethiopia, who eventually won the race. The race quickly became an annual fixture in the city's sporting schedule, with races in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, the race will be relaunched as the Great North 10K Run, allowing male competitors to take part for the first time, on 12 July.


University of Sunderland Sports Buildings, Chester Road - - 2079145
University of Sunderland

Sunderland Polytechnic was founded in 1969, becoming the University of Sunderland in 1992. The institution currently has over 17,000 students. The university is split into two campuses; the City Campus (site of the original Polytechnic) is just to the west of the city centre, as is the main university library and the main administrative buildings. The 'Award-Winning' St Peter's Riverside Campus is located on the north banks of the river Wear, next to the National Glass Centre and houses the School of Business, Law and Psychology, as well as Computing and Technology and The Media Centre. The University of Sunderland was named the top university in England for providing the best student experience by The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) in 2006. Since 2001 Sunderland has been named the best new university in England by The Guardian and Government performance indicators showed Sunderland as the best new university in England for the quality, range and quantity of its research.

Sunderland College is a further education establishment with five campuses located at the Bede centre on Durham Road, Shiney Row, Hylton, Doxford International Business Park and 'Phoenix House' in the city centre. It has over 14,000 students, and based on exam results is one of the most successful colleges. St Peter's Sixth Form College, next to St Peter's Church and the University, opened in September 2008. The college is a partnership between the three Sunderland North schools and City of Sunderland College.

There are eighteen secondary schools in the Sunderland area, predominantly comprehensives. According to exam results, the most successful was St Robert of Newminster Catholic School, a coeducational secondary school and sixth form in Washington. However, comprehensive schools also thrive, notably the Roman Catholic single-sex schools St Anthony's (for girls) and St Aidan's (for boys). Both continue to attain high exam results.

There are seventy-six primary schools in Sunderland. According to the 'Value Added' measure, the most successful is Mill Hill Primary School, in Doxford Park.

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See also

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