Bird’s eye views of 50s and 60s Sunderland

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TODAY we take to the skies for a bird’s eye view of the changing face of Sunderland during the 1950s and 60s.

“I believe you can glean a lot more information from aerial shots than ground ones,” said local historian Bill Hawkins, of Sunderland Antiquarian Society.



“For instance, you can pick out landmarks, streets, shops and civic buildings – such as the Town Hall and Sunderland Station – which can help in dating images.

“These photos are particularly interesting, as they feature a time of dramatic change. Parts of the old station were disappearing, and the Town Hall would soon vanish too.”

Among the aerial images featured is one of the River Wear in 1953, as well as the much-changed Millfield/Deptford area in 1961 and Hendon Paper Works in 1965.

“The paper firm opened for business in around 1872, manufacturing a wide variety of fine stationery and printing paper from esparto grass imported from Africa,” said Bill.

“Apparently the tall chimneys were used as landmarks by Hitler’s Luftwaffe during air raids on the town, but the mill survived two wars and the Great Depression.”

Also featured in this collection are aerial shots of the Deptford area – once a bustling, close-knit riverside community. Today, only a handful of the buildings still remain.

“The houses, shops and churches of Deptford grew up around the industries based in the thriving area, such as bottleworks, shipyards and glass factories,” said Bill.

“The same was true for Millfield, but this was still largely rural until the late 19th century. Indeed, a tract of land lay between the town and Millfield Station in 1853.

“By the late Victorian period, however, streets of terraced houses had engulfed the fields between Sunderland and Millfield – all nestling around pockets of industry.”

The final aerial photos featured today show industries such as Cole’s Cranes and Thompson’s shipyard, as well as different views of the town centre in the 1960s.

“We had to scan each of the images in two halves, as they were so large, but they were well worth the trouble. They all tell the story of Sunderland so well,” said Bill.

“Not all of the shots were taken from a plane, though. I’m pretty sure that the town centre ones were taken from the top of what were then brand new tower blocks.”

l The archives of Sunderland Antiquarian Society at 6 Douro Terrace are open to the public each Saturday and Wednesday from 9.30am-12noon. Admission free.