However, while most recognise important places and buildings, less than 20 plaques honour people who made their mark on Wearside.
1. Dr Marion Phillips, Foyle Street, city centre
Dr Marion Phillips became Sunderland's first female MP at the 1929 general election; the first election in which women’s voting rights were equal to men’s. In July 1928 Dr Phillips sent a letter to all women in the town, stressing the importance to them of the 1929 General Election, due to its extended suffrage. At the time of the election, Sunderland was a difficult seat for Labour, despite being predominantly working-class. Nevertheless, she won and was one of only 14 female MPs in the parliament. She hadn’t actually intended to stand for parliament, but felt compelled to accept the nomination on behalf of women and the poor.
2. William Mills, Wear Street, Southwick
Sunderland's newest blue plaque, installed in January 2021, honours Sir William Mills. He was born in Wear Street, Southwick, in the shadow of the shipyards, in 1856 and would go on to become a celebrated engineer and inventor. His most well-known invention is the Mills Bomb, the ring-pull hand grenade used by British and allied forces in the First World War, a weapon which helped play a major role in their victory. It’s an invention which earned William a knighthood in 1922,
3. Joseph Hodgson, Boar's Head, East End
A successful campaign in 2018 led to the unveiling of a blue plaque on the Boar's Head pub in the East End. A hero who saved dozens of people from drowning in the North Sea, Joseph had the nickname of Stormy Petrel because whenever a gale blew up, he looked for ships in distress so that he could help. Joseph was born in Dunning Street, Sunderland, in 1829 and was only 15 when he jumped into the River Wear to save the life of three-year-old John Snowdon. It was the first of many acts of heroism. By his mid-60s, Joseph had rescued the crews of 15 ships as part of a lifeboat team, as well as numerous people himself. He even won a gold medal from Napoleon III after coming to the aid of the stricken French schooner Les Trois Soeurs in 1857.
4. Ida and Louise Cook, Croft Avenue, off Chester Road
The Sunderland sisters saved the lives of dozens of refugees fleeing the Nazis before the outbreak of the Second World War and have been honoured with a lasting memorial to their life-saving efforts. A Blue Plaque commemorating Ida and Louise Cook has been installed at the entrance gate wall to Croft Avenue, which was their childhood home. Posing as eccentric opera lovers, the sisters repeatedly travelled to Germany during the late 1930s, where they smuggled the personal possessions of those facing persecution back with them to Britain to sell and raise funds for the emigration papers and travel documents the refugees needed to escape to safety. Their daring exploits as double agents all stemmed from a friendship with Austrian conductor Clemens Krauss and his fiancé, opera singer Viorica Ursuleac.