7 surprising political visitors to Sunderland

Winston Churchill during a visit to the North East in 1941.
Winston Churchill during a visit to the North East in 1941.
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Wearside was once a hotbed of political change – and representatives of every political persuasion visited the town.

Prime Ministers past, present and future made the trek up north to speak at rallies and canvass for votes – as these archive Echo photos reveal.

Clement Attlee, Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951, during a visit to Sunderland during the 1940s.

Clement Attlee, Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951, during a visit to Sunderland during the 1940s.

Even Winston Churchill is believed to have visited Sunderland during the war, to help raise spirits, but details of his 1941 appearance remain vague.

“An Echo snapper took his picture but, because of wartime censorship, the paper was banned from publishing much information,” said archivist Susan Swinney.

“It wasn’t, however, his first trip up here. In 1920 he spoke at the Victoria Hall and told the audience he thought that Labour wasn’t yet fit to govern.”

Other well-known political visitors in the mid-20th century included post-war Prime Minister Clement Attlee and three-times Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. Seaham MP Ramsay MacDonald – the first Labour Party Prime Minister in 1924 – was a regular visitor too, as was Manny Shinwell – later Minister for Defence.

Seaham MP Ramsay MacDonald - the first Labour Party Prime Minister to take office in 1924 - pictured in Durham in the 1940s.

Seaham MP Ramsay MacDonald - the first Labour Party Prime Minister to take office in 1924 - pictured in Durham in the 1940s.

“The Echo’s old glass plate archive is rich in photos of political figures, including several ‘home-grown’ ones like miners’ leader Peter Lee,” said Susan.

“At the same time, the political climate was changing. Between 1935 and 1945 Sunderland switched from having Liberal National and Conservative MPs to Labour.

“But, looking at these photos, it appears that a warm Wearside welcome was still on offer for visiting politicians from all parties.”

* Look out for more photos from the old archive next Monday – this time featuring Royal visits between the 1930s and 1960s.

Three-times Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin photographed at the Palatine Hotel in the 1940s.

Three-times Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin photographed at the Palatine Hotel in the 1940s.

Manny Shinwell, a British trade union official and Labour politician, pictured at an NCB Dinner in Sunderland in April 1947.

Manny Shinwell, a British trade union official and Labour politician, pictured at an NCB Dinner in Sunderland in April 1947.

Conservative politician Lord Halifax speaking at a political rally at the Victoria Hall in March 1939. The hall was bombed just a few years later and this is one of the very few photos taken inside it.

Conservative politician Lord Halifax speaking at a political rally at the Victoria Hall in March 1939. The hall was bombed just a few years later and this is one of the very few photos taken inside it.

Politician Peter Lee - a miner's leader, county councillor and Methodist local preacher, who was born in Trimdon Grange in 1864. The town of Peterlee was named after him.

Politician Peter Lee - a miner's leader, county councillor and Methodist local preacher, who was born in Trimdon Grange in 1864. The town of Peterlee was named after him.