Wearside Echioes: Preserving the Past

From: Michael Johnson <michael2.johnson@northumbria.ac.uk>'''Former Wearmouth Bridge
From: Michael Johnson <michael2.johnson@northumbria.ac.uk>'''Former Wearmouth Bridge
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WEARSIDE’S past is being preserved for the future – with the help of the internet.

Sunderland Heritage Forum, which represents local history groups across Wearside, has just launched a website dedicated to celebrating the city’s rich heritage.

“Our aim is to protect Sunderland’s considerable history and heritage for future generations,” said university lecturer Dr Michael Johnson, the architectural historian for the website.

“The site features information on Sunderland’s history and architecture, together with a vast range of old and new photos of Sunderland and discussions on the city’s most significant buildings.

“There is also advice on how to do your own research into Sunderland’s past, which will hopefully encourage people to become involved in recording and preserving their own history too.”

Sunderland Heritage Forum, which is backed by the city council and Sunderland University, was formed in 1997 to safeguard Wearside’s heritage through research, talks and local history events.

Initiatives launched by the forum so far include Sunderland Heritage Quarter – a regeneration project for the historic East End of Sunderland, aimed at breathing new life into the port area.

Blue plaque heritage trails are also being planned for the city, together with guided tours of historic sites, archaeological digs and the formation of a community group focussed on saving local assets.

“Sunderland has many buildings of architectural and historical interest, from Edwardian Baroque palaces like the Empire, to spectacular Victorian mansions like Langham Tower,” said Michael.

“St Andrew’s Church at Roker is an arts and crafts building of national significance, and the city also has its own distinctive housing, the Sunderland cottages, which are virtually unique in England.

“As an architectural historian, I’m hoping to generate more interest in Sunderland’s impressive architectural heritage through the website, which features discussions on the city’s key buildings.

“We’re also eager for local people to become involved in celebrating the city’s history. As a local history group, we can only do so much – which is why we need people to join forces with us.”

Michael, a lecturer in history of architecture at Sunderland University, has contributed scores of contemporary photos of local historic buildings to the website, as well as two research guides.

“The first, Researching Sunderland’s History, offers techniques for researching any aspect of the history of Sunderland, explaining methods used by local historians and sources available,” he said.

“The second, History of Your House, outlines techniques for researching houses, streets or other aspects of architecture, helping you uncover the fascinating history of Sunderland’s buildings.

“A lot of people are interested in researching their family history these days, and researching the history of a house or street is the architectural equivalent of that.”

Other topics covered by the website, www.sunderlandheritage.org.uk, include details on many of Sunderland’s historic buildings such as Holy Trinity Church, the Exchange and Trafalgar Square.

And, for those interested in discussing any of the topics further, or even appealing for help with their own local history research, there is also a Facebook group – Sunderland Heritage Quarter.

“The website offers lots of information on Sunderland’s past, while the Facebook group is for people to share knowledge, photographs and memories of Sunderland’s history,” said Michael. “We look forward to hearing from anyone with an interest in the history of Sunderland. Our aim is to highlight just what a rich heritage Sunderland has.”