Tasmanian recruit for Sunderland society which is one of the best in the land

The Antiquarians rare photo of  Wearmouth Bridge before its alteration in 1858.
The Antiquarians rare photo of Wearmouth Bridge before its alteration in 1858.
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It’s 700-up for the Sunderland Antiquarian Society.

That’s the milestone that the growing group has reached in its number of members and the latest one signed up from Tasmania!

Tunstall Road in Sunderland around 1905.

Tunstall Road in Sunderland around 1905.

The society is a real success story and proof that history remains hugely popular among the people.

Society spokesman Philip Curtis explained more about the society and how to get involved.

“It just shows the interest there is in the history and heritage of Wearside,” said Philip Curtis.

He spoke as the Sunderland Antiquarian Society celebrated an impressive milestone in its 117-year history.

The name Antiquarians can be off-putting. It conjures up a bunch of fuddy-duddies. However we are anything but that: just local people who are passionate about Sunderland’s history and heritage

Philip Curtis

It welcomed its 700th member and Philip added: “Our membership is phenomenal and I believe that we are now one of the largest heritage societies outside London which I feel is something the city of Sunderland should really be proud of.”

Most members are from Sunderland and the surrounding area, but there are ex-pat Wearsiders across Britain and overseas members from America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The society was formed in 1900 by a small group of Wearsiders who were dedicated to exploring and recording Sunderland’s history and heritage.

Since then, donations of archives have flooded in from industry, commerce and the families of the town.

They are all available to the public at the society’s Heritage Centre which is based in Douro Terrace.

Philip said: “Thanks to help from Gentoo the society holds a long lease on its premises and the society’s heritage centre in Douro Terrace now boasts nine rooms packed with archives on everything ‘Sunderland’.

“We have books, documents, maps, posters, paintings and photographs. There are also collections from the shipyards, churches, police, family history, shopping and schools. All are available to peruse and use for research.”

There are real treasures in the centre including letters from local lads who served on the Victory at Trafalgar, to Reverend William Ettrick who penned his detailed diary back in 1806.

There is a massive photographic archive of the old town and the society is also custodian of the Echo’s photographic archive.

The society also recently retrieved some of its paintings from the Museum and Art Gallery which were loaned almost forty years ago and they are now on display in the centre.

Philip said: “The name Antiquarians can be off-putting. It conjures up a bunch of fuddy-duddies.

“However we are anything but that: just local people who are passionate about Sunderland’s history and heritage. We welcome new members and invite anyone who is interested to come along to the centre which is open every Wednesday and Saturday from 9.30am to 12pm.

“Or they can join through the website www.sunderland-antiquarians.org.”

Members receive a bi-monthly newsletter with articles about the old town.

They can also enjoy monthly illustrated talks which are held in the Tom Cowie Business Suite at Thornhill School.

But the society is much more than just a collection of archives at Douro Terrace.

Philip said: “Our Facebook site now has over 10,000 regular followers and the society is a real flagship for the history and heritage of the city.

“We are going from strength to strength and find that local businesses as well as individual families are happy to give us their archives, knowing that they will be made easily available to current and future generations of Wearsiders.”

For those wanting to find out more, this month’s illustrated talk takes place at Thornhill School.

It will be held on February 21 and starts at 7.30pm.

The subject is ‘Sunderland’s Classical Buildings’ by Michael Johnson.

Doors open 7pm and all are welcome.

People can also find out more by visiting the society’s website at http://www.sunderland-antiquarians.org/