The hawkers who sold their wares in Sunderland

Waiting for the catch to come in.
Waiting for the catch to come in.
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Today street sellers are rarely seen in Sunderland.

However, the older generation will no doubt be able to recall the street hawkers who were once a common sight on the streets of Wearside.

Busy filleting the fish.

Busy filleting the fish.

Philip Curtis, from the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, looks back.

Street sellers may no longer be a regular site in Sunderland but older readers may well remember them.

They sold fish, crabs or fruit and vegetables, and each usually had their own patch.

They were also very well-known to cinema and theatre-goers, and many had their stalls outside to catch the crowds.

They were part of the once rich tapestry of the old town and undoubtedly their like will never be seen again on the streets of Sunderland.

Philip Curtis

Elizabeth Lang, known to everyone as Lizzie, spent a lifetime selling fruit and nuts to theatre and cinema patrons in the town. When she eventually retired in 1959 at the age of 74, she might well have been the oldest hawker in the town.

Fishwives were a common sight on Wearside and carried fish in wicker baskets, usually balanced on their heads. The most well-known were Meg Shipley and Maggie O’Hare.

Meg Shipley’s pitch was on the corner of Bridge Street and West Wear Street. She could be seen daily selling crabs from 11am until 10pm.

Maggie O’Hare, one of the East End’s last fishwives, could be regularly seen cleaning and filleting fish in the street preparing it to be sold from her basket.

Filleting the fish in the street.

Filleting the fish in the street.

One of the hardest-working street sellers was undoubtedly Mary McLoughlin. She sold fish door-to-door and also sold toffee cakes from her home at a halfpenny each.

The fishwives would usually await the fishing boats coming in to the Corporation Quay and purchase the fish and crabs from there. These were then taken to be filleted and cleaned before being sold.

These hard-working women were real characters. They thought nothing of working long hours outside in all weathers in order to feed their families.

Lizzie Lang.

Lizzie Lang.