Sunderland inventors and landmarks feature in a new range of T-shirts sold at city centre store

From inventors who changed the course of history to a much-loved landmark, Sunderland’s rich heritage is being celebrated in a new range of T-shirts.

Dave Rowlands began designing T-shirts in homage to his home city in lockdown, and his designs proved so popular that they’re now being stocked in Port Independent clothing store in the city centre.

There’s four versions of the T-shirts, including a design featuring Penshaw Monument and the words ‘Nil Desperandum’ from the Latin motto on the Sunderland coat of arms – Nil desperandum Auspice Deo which translates as ‘Don't despair, in God we trust’ – as well as a version celebrating the city’s shipbuilding heritage.

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Sunderland-born inventors are also honoured, with a version featuring a Mills bomb, which was designed by Southwick-born William Mills. His ring-pull hand grenade was used by British and allied forces in the First World War and played a major role in their victory.

Dave Rowlands has started his own t-shirt brand named Sons of Anxiety stocked in Port Independent.

Meanwhile, a “lighting the way” design marks Joseph Swan, one of Sunderland’s most famous sons, who invented the electric lightbulb.

Dave, who juggles designing T-shirts with his job at the North East Autism Society in Thornhill, said: “During lockdown I designed a T-shirt for charity and donated the proceeds. I started designing more after that and selling them through my Instagram page.

"Gerard Purvis from Port Independent noticed them and asked if I’d be interested in having them stocked in the store. It’s great for independent designers to have a store like that giving them a platform in the city centre.”

Based in St Thomas Street, Port Independent flies the flag for a host of emerging designers and offers customers clothing you won’t find in more mainstream stores. It also acts as a hub for Coffee Haus coffee shop and Port Bierhaus, an in house bar selling craft ales for sit in and take away.

Dave Rowlands design celebrating Penshaw Monument

Dave says there’s been a great response to the T-shirts so far.

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He said: “I wore the Penshaw Monument T-shirt to go for a drink at The Peacock on Saturday and a couple of people asked me where it was from, which was great to have it be noticed.”

*The Sunderland T-shirts are available to buy from Port Independent in Sunderland city centre, priced £20, or through Dave’s Instagram page @D_Roww

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Honouring Sunderland's shipbuilding heritage
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Joseph Swan is one of Sunderland's most famous sons
Southwick-born inventor William Mills was known as The Bomb Man