7 shots of a lost Sunderland landmark

Sunderland Town Hall demolition February 1971.

Sunderland Town Hall demolition February 1971.

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The demolition of a much-loved Wearside landmark caused an outcry 45 years ago – with the controversy still rumbling on today.

Sunderland Town Hall, which gave a stamp of Victorian dignity and importance to Fawcett Street, was reduced to rubble in 1971.

Sunderland's Town Hall - still mourned 45 years after demolitioon.

Sunderland's Town Hall - still mourned 45 years after demolitioon.

“The grand old building took three years to build, but was demolished in just 10 weeks,” said local historian Carol Roberton.

“This move took place straight after a hasty decision by councillors, who were eager to claim a £100,000 redevelopment grant.

“But the debate about the demolition of the Town Hall has never really ceased, making the lack of debate at the time amazing.”

A competition was held to find a design for the Town Hall in 1886, with Ipswich architect Brightwen Binyon emerging victorious.

The demolition of Sunderland Town Hall in 1971.

The demolition of Sunderland Town Hall in 1971.

The foundation stone for the £48,400 building was laid on September 29, 1887, and, on November 6, 1890, it was officially opened.

“There was a procession from the old hall in East Cross Street, a firework display and a gargantuan banquet,” the Echo reported.

Wearsiders were immediately captivated by the splendour of the building, with its grand staircase and dominant tower.

But the burgeoning duties of local government eventually outgrew the hall, prompting the opening of the civic centre in 1970.

The last of the Town Hall's four bells is lowered from the clock tower of the old Town Hall in Fawcett Street in February 1971.

The last of the Town Hall's four bells is lowered from the clock tower of the old Town Hall in Fawcett Street in February 1971.

A meeting of the General Purposes Committee on December 30, 1970, sounded its final death knell, when immediate demolition was agreed.

Workmen moved on to the site just a few days later, tearing down the adjacent reading rooms before starting on the hall in February.

“The resonant hour bell of the clock boomed out for the last time on February 22, and the hall was reduced to 2,000 tons of rubble,” said Carol.

“But plans to build a hotel on the site never materialised, leaving a huge gap where our beloved - and still mourned - hall once stood.”

Sunderland Town Hall's clock face in August 1959.

Sunderland Town Hall's clock face in August 1959.

The Reading Rooms in Fawcett Street, pictured in 1952. The building was next to the Town Hall and demolished in 1971.

The Reading Rooms in Fawcett Street, pictured in 1952. The building was next to the Town Hall and demolished in 1971.

Sunderland Town Hall shown in 1954.

Sunderland Town Hall shown in 1954.