On the Waterfront: Sunderland’s new fish quay

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THIS week, we continue with the theme of Sunderland’s fish quays and look at the new jetty, which was completed at Hendon Channel in 1879.

Earlier, two separate landing places for catches had existed. Drifters landed herring inside the old South Half-Tide Basin entrance to Hudson Dock, while trawlers discharged at the Custom House Quay market on the south side of the river.

Lack of space and facilities within the dock outlet and tidal constraints on the river had previously proved very inconvenient for fishermen and those involved in buying and selling catches.

Construction of the New Sea Lock to replace the half-tide basin entrance began in 1878, with the Custom House Quay market having fallen into disrepair by this time.

Closure of the dock basin led to stoppage of the herring trade, compelling the River Wear Commissioners (RWC) to approve construction of a new fish quay and market, from where the port’s entire trade would be conducted.

In fact, the Wear’s fishing industry had seen a considerable increase up to this time, but fishing boats were now forced to go elsewhere to land catches.

The RWC recognised potential for future development of the trade, claiming that Sunderland’s new facility would rival the much-vaunted North Shields fish quay.

It was decided to build the new wharf and market inside the South Outlet on the north side of the Hendon Channel entrance to Hendon Dock.

Completed towards the end of 1879, the new wharf comprised a 300 by 20-foot jetty, extending eastward from the dockside at the north end of Laing Warehouse.

The centre was connected to the end of a shorter, but wider, pier by means a third landing, with a wooden shed being erected on the shorter jetty for use by salesmen.

The fish market, itself, covered a considerable area and was provided with extensive facilities, including links with the North Eastern Railway Company system. Fishing vessels were now able to land catches at all states of the tide, with ten Wear-based trawlers and over 100 herring smacks belonging to Sunderland, Yorkshire, Cornwall and the Isle of Man regularly arriving in port.

In 1883, new covered facilities were introduced, together with the replacement of independent fish sellers by an official seller appointed by the RWC. This decision led to great animosity towards the Commissioners by independent sellers and many local fishermen.

Hendon Channel fish quay was closed when a blockship was sunk across the South Outlet pier ends at the start of World War One.

The Fish Quay was then relocated to Thornhill Quay, moving further upstream in 1931 to make way for the new Corporation Quay.

It has been located at its current site since July, 1939.