Sunderland’s history under the spotlight - and you can be part of it

The Donnison School in Sunderland.
The Donnison School in Sunderland.
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A great chance to learn more about Wearside’s history comes to an end soon.

But there’s still time for interested people to sign up for events under the Sunderland Local History Month banner.

The Ryhope Engines Museum.

The Ryhope Engines Museum.

Find out more about Sunderland’s past including the restoration of Roker Pier, Bernard Gilpin, two heroines from the city and Donnison School.

l First comes an illustrated talk on the restoration of Roker Pier by Matt Storey.

It was built between 1885 and 1903, and at the time the Roker Pier and Lighthouse represented a ‘triumph of engineering’.

People can find out more at the talk from 2.30pm this Wednesday, in the Sir Tom Cowie Lecture Theatre at the University of Sunderland Prospectus Building, in St Peters Way.

Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

For more information on the event, contact Stuart Miller on (0191) 5285339 or email

l The next day, the commemoration of 500 years since the birth of Bernard Gilpin continues at Kepier Hall, Houghton Parish Church.

A talk by Brenda Graham will be given from 6.45pm on Thursday, May 25.

Entry is £2 which includes refreshments. For more information contact Brenda Graham on (0191) 584 1943 or email

Bernard Gilpin was rector of Houghton-le-Spring when it was one of the largest parishes in England, spanning 24 square miles and covering 16 villages. Each Sunday between Michaelmas and Easter, he gave free dinners to every visitor, no matter what their status was.

l On the same day at 6.30pm, a heritage walk around Houghton will be held. Those interested should meet at the steps on the corner of Mautland Street next to Lidl.

It is also part of the year-long ‘Gilpin 500’ celebrations and the walk will visit many historic locations around Houghton-le-spring.

For more information, visit

l Two Sunderland heroines will be the focus of a talk titled Two Against Hitler on Friday, May 26 from 2pm.

It will be given by Stuart Miller at the Pottery Gallery, in Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Burdon Road. It will tell the story of Ida and Louise Cook, from Croft Avenue, Sunderland, who saved many Jews from Nazi persecution.

For more information and to book a free place contact Janet Robinson on 0191 561 8413 or email

l The food, fashions and culture of Poland and Eastern Europe will be spotlighted at the Meet Your Neighbour Festival, at the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

It runs from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, May 27; 12pm to 4pm on Sunday, May 28; and 10am to 4pm on Monday, May 29.

The family festival is being brought by ICOS (International Community Organisation of Sunderland) which can be contacted on

For more information contact the Museum Learning Team on (0191) 561 2323 or visit

l An open day will be held at Donnison School in Church Walk on Saturday, May 27, from 10.30am-3.30pm. Meet Elizabeth Donnison and discover the history of this wonderful charity school.

Come along and learn about early education in the East End of Sunderland, and enjoy the refreshments which are described as Georgian fare.

For more information contact (0191) 5654835, email, or visit

l Ryhope Engines Museum is holding open days from Saturday, May 27, to Monday, May 29, from 11am to 4pm each day.

Come along and see the engines running each day. Visitors who arrive at 11am can help start the engines.


l A family trail titled History heroes runsfrom Saturday, May 27, to Sunday, June 4, at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, during museum opening hours.

Follow the trail to find out about Sunderland’s history heroes including Jack Crawford, Harry Watts and Margaret Dryburgh.

Answer the questions, complete the challenges and claim a themed prize.

Entry is £2.50. Contact the Museum Learning Team on (0191) 5612323 or visit