Campaign launched to preserve historic Southwick village green which dates back more than 1,000 years

A society which was formed to preserve and protect a village green already has 650 members - three months after it first formed.

Friday, 23rd August 2019, 12:45 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd August 2019, 1:34 pm
Some of the preservation society's committee members at their latest meeting.

The Southwick Village Green Preservation Society is going strong since it was created in May.

Committee member Peter Gibson said: "Within three days we had 300 members. We now have 650 members who are growing daily. We have a management committee and we meet monthly.

"We hope to successfully apply for funding to erect tributes on Southwick Green to outstanding Southwick people. These include honoring our war dead from all conflicts."

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Southwick Green in the early 1900s.

There's plans to honour Southwick's industrial heritage and those interested can find out more on the group's Facebook page.

It has been formed, said Peter, 'for like-minded Suddickers whose heart is in Southwick and would be interested to preserve and improve Southwick Village Green.

"The village green is the site of the early medieval settlement and is over 1,000 years old. We are proud to boast that Southwick has a long and rich history. Over the last thirty years or so, however, the local economy has been seriously damaged by the collapse of Wearside industries, and it has had a profound effect on The Green area."

Peter believes that increased use of online shopping and supermarkets has exacerbated Southwick Green's decline.

Sir John Priestman who was instrumental in helping to save the village green.

They have 'taken over in popularity from the many small shops that thrived on The Green and along Southwick Road. There is a strong feeling in Southwick that this decline needs to be addressed and for this reason, this Facebook group has been created to provide a stepping stone to move forward and eventually apply for funding to invest in Southwick Village Green and the surrounding buildings.'

The Facebook page can be found at 'Southwick Village Green Preservation Society'.

The long and fascinating history of the Green shows:

* Southwick Village Green is more than 1,000 years old;

Another of the committee members at the recent meeting.

* Wealthy aristocrats owned much of Southwick and lived there as Lord of the Manor. In medieval times the Suthwyk's, Hedworth's and then the Grey's were among the leading families in the north of England;

*Industry arrived, beginning with the Suddick Glasshouse in 1690;

* Potteries, glassworks, limestone burning, brickmaking and shipbuilding all followed.

* After the rise of the industrial revolution, housing was in demand. By 1801, there were 554 inhabitants and by 1851 the census recorded 2,721 people who were living around the village green and the rapidly growing Low Southwick;

The Green in 1989.

* Southwick Village Green deteriorated and in the 1850s the polluted village pond was filled in;

* But in 1880, funding was raised by public subscription and the village green was beautifully laid out as a park with saplings planted, seats provided and bordered by wooden railings. But soon the trees were uprooted, seats and fencing destroyed, and by the turn of the 20th Century, the village green became a mudbath in wet weather and a dust bowl during the dry summer months;

* In 1909 the Highways Committee of Southwick Council proposed to tar over the village green, but the motion was rejected by the casting vote of Chairman John Priestman. He later became Sir John Priestman and he saved Southwick Village Green for future generations to enjoy;

* In 1912, the three sons of Robert Thompson Junior, the Southwick shipbuilder, paid for it to be laid out as a memorial to their father. They laid out the green in the shape of a ship.

* In 1928, responsibilities for Southwick Village Green passed to Sunderland Corporation when Southwick joined the town. During the 1930s the Borough built a toilet block and a bus shelter at the west end;

* In 1981 some much-needed modernizations were carried out by Sunderland Council on Southwick Green. But the width of the green was reduced in size and a curved pathway on the north side ate up more of our village green, said Peter.

An early 1900s view.