Two Royal visits which packed the streets of Sunderland

The Prince of Wales arrives at the Town Hall in July 1930.
The Prince of Wales arrives at the Town Hall in July 1930.
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Visits of Royalty to Sunderland have always been eagerly anticipated.

And they have always been supported by thousands of Wearsiders each time.

The Prince is welcomed by the workers at Doxfords.

The Prince is welcomed by the workers at Doxfords.

Philip Curtis, of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, today takes a look back.

His feature concentrates on two visits which brought Sunderland to a standstill.

The popularity of the Royal family in our city was never more evident than in the 1930s.

That’s when two visits were made by the then Prince of Wales who was later to become King Edward VIII.

At that time the Prince of Wales was a tremendously popular figure throughout the country.

Philip Curtis

Those two visits brought Sunderland to a complete standstill.

At that time the Prince of Wales was a tremendously popular figure throughout the country, and certainly on Wearside.

Wherever he went, huge crowds were always guaranteed to turn out to see him and everyone was certain that his popularity would grow even more when he eventually became King.

Let’s look at the first of those visits to Sunderland which happened on July 3, 1930.

Wearsiders gave him a great welcome.

In fact, the interest was so huge that thousands lined the streets to catch a glimpse of royalty in the flesh.

His itinerary that day included a visit to the Pallion shipyard of William Doxford and Sons.

After that, he proceeded to Newcastle Road where he laid the foundation stone of the new Monkwearmouth and Southwick Hospital.

And he did it in front of a large cheering crowd.

This was carried out by the Prince of Wales at the request of Sir John Priestman, who was Sunderland’s great philanthropist and who was instrumental behind the funding and building of the new hospital.

The Prince could hardly refuse the request as Sir John had donated £100,000 to the Prince’s Haig Homes Fund after being personally approached by him for financial assistance for the fund.

But this was not the only visit which was to attract huge interest on Wearside and locals did not have long to wait for a repeat.

That repeat visit happened just four years later.

The Prince of Wales made his return to Sunderland on December 6, 1934.

This time, it was an ‘informal’ visit which had been arranged by the National Council of Social Service.

It was a damp, foggy day for his visit but it certainly did not dull the interest of the people of Sunderland.

The streets of the town were again thronged with cheering crowds and Fawcett Street in particular was reported as being packed.

The Prince first arrived at Sunderland’s Central Station before beginning his programme for the day.

First, he inspected a guard of honour of British Legionnaires.

And then, while he was accompanied by the Mayor Edward Ditchburn, he drove through the massed cheering crowds which were lining Coronation Street.

His journey took him to the emergency open-air nursery school in George Street which was in the east end of the town.

This had officially been opened just a few weeks earlier by Lady Astor.

After being shown around the nursery school, the Prince then visited the Unemployed Social Centre which was in Roker Avenue.

After that, he was driven out to Washington to start another round of visits.

The Prince was extremely popular in Sunderland and this was demonstrated just two years later - although this time, he was not there as the crowds gathered for a historic occasion.

The date was January 23, 1936, and there were crowds outside the Town Hall to hear and celebrate the proclamation of the Prince becoming King Edward VIII following the death of his father, King George V.

Alas as history shows, this did not last very long.

Edward abdicated later that year and eventually moved to France with his future wife, Wallis Simpson, and took the title Duke of Windsor.

He never returned to Sunderland.