The day a 15ft-high bike paraded through Sunderland - and thousands saw it

We can all look forward to an extra Bank Holiday next year to mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

Monday, 31st May 2021, 4:55 am
A day of celebrations which lasted from sunrise.

The big day will be in June 2022 to mark 70 years of Her Majesty’s rule but Sunderland is no stranger to huge jubilee celebrations. In fact, it once held a celebration which was so big, even the dogs wore rosettes!

Roker beach was packed from just after sunrise and a town centre parade featured a 15ft-high bike.

Philip Curtis, from Sunderland Antiquarian Society, told us more.

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Fawcett Street on the morning of the jubilee celebrations.

On Tuesday, June 22, 1897, the country celebrated Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. She had been on the throne for 60 years.

It was a glorious summer’s day and Sunderland’s streets were decorated with colourful flags, banners and streamers.

The Town Hall had illuminations spelling out ‘Nil Desperandum, Loyal Sunderland and God Save the Queen and rows of streamers stretched across Fawcett Street.

The Liberal Club (Athenaeum) had flags, banners, festoons of flowers. The Constitutional Club in John Street featured transparencies of the Royal Family, which were lit up at night.

Crowds arriving by tram outside the Town Hall to join in the celebrations.

The Museum and the bandstands in parks had also been decorated. Bridge Street and High Street from Bishopwearmouth Church down to the docks had bunting across the streets.

Bicycle frames were covered in red, white and blue. Babies in prams were dressed in the colours and dogs could be seen with ribbons or rosettes on their collars.

The shipping in the river and docks also were decorated. Roker beach was packed from early morning.

The unfinished Roker Pier was opened up and, from early dawn, crowds thronged the streets and parks where brass bands were playing.

A carnival left Newcastle Road at 3pm for a procession over Wearmouth Bridge and through Fawcett Street with a wonderful parade of cycles, carriages and trade exhibits.

The parade was led by the Northumberland Yeomen, followed by a cycle section with almost 150 cyclists taking part.

Following the cycles were four carriages decorated to represent England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. These were followed by a giant penny-farthing cycle 15 feet in height!

Sports events were held at Hendon in the evening and at Fulwell where almost 3,000 spectators turned out. The largest crowds, however, were at night in Fawcett Street for the switching on of the illuminations.

At 10pm, very large bonfires were lit around the town with the largest on Tunstall Hill and Fulwell (Sir Hedworth Williamson provided the material).

The Mayor, Alderman Burns, held a tea in Monkwearmouth Hall for 300 elderly people with similar events in Rectory Park School and St John’s schoolroom.

The old sailors and widows from Assembly Garth and Trafalgar Square were given a reception in the Seamen’s Hall in Church Street and each presented with a pound of tea and two ounces of tobacco.

At the Union Workhouse, the inmates received a special dinner and were given permission to wander about the grounds.

At the Girls’ industrial School in Tatham Street, each girl was presented with a medal and a Jubilee cup and saucer.

Sunderland Antiquarian Society’s base in Douro Terrace will re-open on Wednesday, June 2 at 9.30am and then be open every Wednesday and Saturday from 9.30am to 12pm with an array of new attractions.

To find out more, visit the Antiquarian Society’s Facebook page or website at

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