Step back in time to Sunderland’s past

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History enthusiasts have created a perfect memento of Sunderland’s past. Nostalgia writer Sarah Stoner takes a look.

WEARSIDERS are being urged to take a step back in time – with a little high-tech help.

Hendon Beach Coal Picking in the 1890s

Hendon Beach Coal Picking in the 1890s

Thousands of vintage photos, postcards and glass slides have been digitised in the latest project by Sunderland Antiquarian Society.

And, to coincide with the group’s Heritage Open Weekend on June 8 and 9, a DVD featuring all the images will go on sale at just £10.

“This is the largest collection of images of old Sunderland ever to be published,” said Norman Kirtlan, map archivist for the society.

“From North Hylton to Roker and Herrington to Hendon, we have photos for everyone. Lots of bonus features, like trams, are also included.”

Among the images included on the Streets of Old Sunderland disc is a glass slide image of Numbers Garth from the Victorian period.

“Numbers Garth stood to the north of High Street and Garden Street School can be seen in the background, behind the shops,” said Norman.

“Many of our great-grandmothers started small grocery shops in order to make a few pennies – particularly when their men were out of work.”

Other images include Hendon Road in the early 20th century where, despite the row of busy shops, just one car can be seen in the far distance.

“Many EastEnders did their weekly shop in Hendon Road, which contained everything from fruit and vegetables to undertakers,” said Norman.

“In those days there wasn’t much need to go further than your local stores – and, if times were hard, there was always Goldman’s Pawn Shop.”

Rare quayside scenes from Victorian times, as well as postcard views of Roker Pier in the Edwardian times, are among the other DVD highlights.

“Straw-bonneted Edwardians are shown running to the end of Roker Pier on one postcard, which is already crammed with onlookers,” said Norman.

“Why? Well, the ship to the left of the picture has just crashed into the pier. Oops! It must have given them something to talk about for days.

“Another great shot features Mackie’s Corner in Victorian times, when the crowds have stopped to stare at the photographer as he sets up his tripod.

“Robert Mackie, a hat maker, was the first tenant of the Hutchinson’s Buildings. Crowds would gather to watch him at work through his store window.”

Another of Norman’s favourite images shows the Gaiety Picture and Variety Theatre in High Street East, which opened shortly before Christmas 1913.

“Apparently, if you didn’t have enough cash for a ticket in the early years, you could take along a few jam jars for payment instead,” said Norman.

“One of the managers, Mr Smith, had once been a horseback circus rider and came to Sunderland as a member of Atrato and Allen’s Circus in 1878.

“The Lodging House pictured is now long gone, but the shop at the centre was the starting point for one of Wearside’s most famous sons – Jacky White!” A beach scene from Hendon in the 1890s, showing Wearsiders picking coal, is another highlight, as is a vintage shot of Sunderland Central Station.

“It was a common sight to see coal-pickers at Hendon, especially when times were bad. It must have been cold, as they are all wrapped up in shawls,” said Norman.

“Industry stretching from the docks to the Paper Mill cut the beach off, but this did not stop youngsters crossing the railway lines. Many died swimming here. Somewhat safer, but still very popular, was the station. How many young Wearsiders spent sixpence getting their name hammered out onto an aluminium strip?

“That strange contraption stood next to a weighing machine for years – while WH Smith has been a constant in the station for three quarters of a century.”

Other images captured for posterity on the new DVD include a rural scene at Christchurch, as well as a Jazz Band parade in Fawcett Street back in 1967.

“The band photo shows Bill Miles leading the Hylton Castle Scottish Grenadiers past Woolworths, with his daughter Sheila marching alongside,” said Norman.

“These jazz bands were a wonderful outlet for bored youngsters on the estates, but one wonders if modern teenagers would be remotely interested in such pastimes.

“The photo of Christchurch is fascinating too, as it shows just how rural this area once was. The haystack obviously provided an ideal spot for courting couples.

“Bede Tower can just be seen in the background, and our Victorian lovers seem quite displeased at having their romantic meeting disturbed by the photographer!”

The final photo featured shows Waterworks Road, which was taken by Norman while on patrol as police officer in the mid-1970s.

“Streets like this one running off Silksworth Row have long been demolished,” said the retired police inspector, who now works as a forensic artist.

“I photographed this at dawn. Carrying a small camera in my uniform pocket helped me to record many of the buildings that were in danger of being lost forever.”

•All these images, and thousands more, are available on the DVD. Further details available from Norman on 07765 635 128 or via email at