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Huge history fair will feature Roman re-enactment battles and celebration of Sunderland heritage

From re-enactments of Roman battles, to setting sail on a journey through Sunderland’s seafaring heritage, there’s plenty in store for visitors to a huge history fair taking place next month.

Monday, 25th April 2022, 11:39 am
Updated Monday, 25th April 2022, 3:49 pm

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The bi-annual Sunderland History Fair is returning for the first time since the pandemic and is set to be one of the largest of its kind, bringing together more than 50 groups from across Sunderland and Durham.

Taking place at Bede Tower in Burdon Road on Saturday, May 21, the fair will feature a broad selection of commercial tables, selling items such as maps and books, national groups such as the Churches Conservation Trust, and local heritage groups such as Sunderland Antiquarians and Sunderland Maritime Heritage.

The fair will be opened by author Glenda Young, whose popular books set in Ryhope will be on sale at the fair. Highlights will also include Roman, Viking and Anglo-Saxon re-enactment groups who will be battling it out outside in full costume.

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Meanwhile, the famous 74-gun HMS Venerable, on which Jack Crawford ‘nailed the flag to the mast’, will be on show and vintage Victorian and Edwardian bicycles ridden by vintage Victorians and Edwardians will be weaving in and out of the crowds.

Stuart Miller, chairman of the Sunderland Heritage Forum, said interest in local history has increased over lockdown and the forum is hoping for a good turn out.

"Local groups have seen a surge in numbers and I think it’s because, with people locked up, they expanded their interests,” he explained. “Sometimes with these groups, I think people think of them as elderly people sat looking at photographs, but they do a lot of work with schools and to raise the profile of the city to show that it’s a lot more cosmopolitan than people think, a city that’s linked with all corners of the world.”

Models of Sunderland buildings by late master craftsman Fred Gooch will be on display at the fair

Stuart says it’s important that people support such groups, who keep the city’s rich history alive.

He said: “The strength in these groups is that they are run by volunteers as opposed to local councils when they can become absorbed in the system, but it also means they are always looking for volunteers to help. We’re hoping the fair will introduce people to new groups.”

On show on the day will be incredibly-detailed models of old Sunderland buildings, such as the old Town Hall, the Dun Cow and the Mountain Daisy by late master craftsman Fred Gooch.

Young visitors will also be able to take their rocks along to have them identified by Dr Andy Lane, whose new book, Bedrock and Building Stones, Geology Exposed in the City of Sunderland, will be launched at the fair.

Sunderland Maritime Heritage are one of the groups taking part in the history fair

The day will also feature guest speakers including former Sunderland Echo football writer, Graeme Anderson, who will give a talk on the history of Sunderland AFC, Peter Welsh who will deliver a talk on the Lambtons and Derek Potter who will discuss Wearside’s engineering skills.

Local caterer Danielle Chisholm from Food2Go will be serving hot and cold food on the day.

*Sunderland History Fair takes place at Bede Tower, Burdon Road on Saturday, May 21 from 10am to 4pm and entry is free. There’s also a free car park on site.

Sunderland Heritage Forum chairman Stuart Miller with Sunderland History Fair organiser Sharon Vincent and Sunderland Heritage Forum treasurer Sandra Lane, along with Sunderland Maritime Heritage board member Bob Crompton.
Sunderland Maritime Heritage, based in the East End, have exhibitions covering 20th century shipbuilding, working conditions and workers' lives
One of Fred's models faithfully recreates the long gone Sunderland Town Hall