40 years since this favourite Sunderland spot was unveiled

Workmen busy preparing The Wearsider lounge which was due to open in 1978 in the Mowbray Park Hotel.
Workmen busy preparing The Wearsider lounge which was due to open in 1978 in the Mowbray Park Hotel.

Forty years have passed since this Wearside venue opened for the first time.

We turn the clock back today to the early days of the Wearsider which could be found inside the Mowbray Park Hotel. We would love to know what your memories are of those great days.

The Mowbray Park Hotel in the early 1980s.

The Mowbray Park Hotel in the early 1980s.

It was Wednesday, March 8, 1978, when the Sunderland venue made the headlines.

It was the first of two new bars which were due to open that week.

Our report at the time said: “Known for many years as the old Palatine Grill, the Wearsider is just one aspect of the many improvements being undertaken at the Mowbray Park Hotel.

“The Wearsider is intended for quiet enjoyment; a drink, a bite to eat, a chat, a game of darts or dominoes. All in surroundings that will bring back memories of Sunderland’s Victorian greatness.”

The Wearsider is just the beginning for us, and I think it is most appropriate that Bobby Kerr should be coming along to get us off to a grand kick-off

Fred Fagan, 1978

Visitors could find it on Borough Road and the new venue was certainly planning to open in style.

Black Cats favourite Bobby Kerr was going to be there to pull a pint or two – just five years after he lifted the FA Cup.

Fred Fagan was the hotel’s general manager and he said at the time: “The Wearsider is just the beginning for us, and I think it is most appropriate that Bobby Kerr should be coming along to get us off to a grand kick-off.

“In the late Spring, we have invited the Mayor of Sunderland to open our second major improvement; the much bigger lounge bar which is also to be completely refurbished and which will incorporate the Bere ‘n’ Byte operation.”

The Mowbray Park was known as a favourite place to stay for many of the stars who were appearing at the Empire Theatre in Sunderland, or other local entertainment venues.

It was also popular with businessmen, especially those who were involved in the shipbuilding and heavy engineering industries.

Our report at the time said: “Mr Fagan has nearly 60 staff to service the Mowbray’s 62 bedrooms, restaurant and cocktail bar – not to mention the below-ground Over-30s Bar which has never looked back since it opened to residents and non-residents last Autumn.”

To give you a flavour of the news that year, Godspell was on at the Empire Theatre, Sunderland.

Straw Dogs were starring at Lee’s Club in Park Lane, and comedian Bobby Thompson was the headline act at La Strada.

The winners of the New Faces competition, Ofanchi, were in the spotlight at Annabel and The Prefabs were on at the Dial Nine Disco.

There was the Beach Club at Roker where there were three bars, discos and a new restaurant.

Down at the pictures, you could watch Star Wars at the Odeon, or Clint Eastwood in The Enforcer at the Fairworld in High Street West.

On the telly, Tomorrow’s World and The Good Life were getting big numbers on BBC1 with Gardeners World, the Open University and Your Move on BBC2.

Over on Tyne Tees, there was the Brady Bunch for the younger generation.

Soap lovers had Crossroads to look forward to and it was an episode where Aunt Ethel told Sandy what she was going to leave him in her will.

On Emmerdale Farm, Clive Hinton had come up with a get-rich-quick scheme and the Bionic Woman featured an edition with Evel Knievel in it.

Later in the day, there was George and Mildred or Rich Man, Poor Man to enjoy.

If bargain hunting was more your style, take a look at Binns where men’s pullovers were £6.99 and a women’s Aztec hooded jacket was £19.95.

Charlton’s was having a closing down sale in Toward Road with boys coats at £2, and ladies dresses for 50 pence.

Pells, in the Empire Salesrooms, was selling divan beds at £26.75 as well as bookcases, dressing tables and dining sets.

And at Joplings, there were thousands of lines to clear in a full weekend of half price bargains.

Share your 1978 memories by emailing chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk