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The rise of Fulwell - and who remembers its fantastic shops?

Howards in Sea Road, Fulwell. Norman Kirtlan remembers it in his new book.
Howards in Sea Road, Fulwell. Norman Kirtlan remembers it in his new book.

The changing face of Fulwell gets our attention today.

Historian Norman Kirtlan is the man to thank for a new book which looks at the rise of the community from its earliest days.

Seaburn beach on Whit Monday in 1929. Sunseekers were out in force to grab a spot on the sands.

Seaburn beach on Whit Monday in 1929. Sunseekers were out in force to grab a spot on the sands.

That’s when Fulwell was no more than a small rural area with less than 100 people within it.

But that all changed with the great housing and population boom in the 1890s.

Norman took up the tale and said: “The book captures the changing face of this much loved village, including tales of colourful characters long gone.

“Folks like the 19th century village constable, are brought back to life, their escapades uncovered in old manuscripts and newspaper stories.”

Fulwell folk have shared some wonderful memories and stories with me. Many of their stories and photographs appear in the book, alongside material gathered from old wills and newspapers dating back three hundred years

Norman Kirtlan

Ow’d Matty was the constable’s name and he was reputed to have a great reluctance to make arrests.

The darker side of Fulwell is also explored, with “murders and mayhem being frequent visitors to the village,” said Norman.

He cited some examples of the crimes of the time.

“The discovery of a baby’s body in 1867 would spark a major manhunt, but it was a woman who would eventually face the justices when she was tracked down and quizzed about the murder.

“The 1864 mystery of William Greatorix is examined in detail. He was shot one night while walking back to Monkwearmouth after drinking in the village, but the evidence was so confusing that police could not make head nor tails of it.

“Having been shot from some distance away, how did his clothing contain pieces of the firearm that had fired the near fatal shot?”

It’s one of many tales of interest in Norman’s new book – and so are the more recent developments which have affected the area.

The book also outlines the 20th century invention of Seaburn, which in 1901 was the brainchild of local businessmen and architects.

“The original plans were for a wealthy watering hole, free of alcohol and consisting of wide avenues of three storey dwellings, some named after the landowner, Lady Browne.

“The plans never came to fruition and it would not be until 1928, when Sunderland Borough took over the Rural District Council that growth really began.

Norman’s thanks go to the many people who helped him with his research.

“Fulwell folk have shared some wonderful memories and stories with me,” said the author.

“Many of their stories and photographs appear in the book, alongside material gathered from old wills and newspapers dating back three hundred years.”

The book is titled ‘Some Notes On The History of Fulwell’ with a subtitle of ‘And the Twentieth Century Invention Of A Place Call Seaburn.’

Norman has plenty of reason to feel an affinity with the area. It’s a family connection which makes it so special for him.

He explained: “As Fulwell was home to my father’s family since the early 1900s, it is a privilege to share my work with the people and the village that they loved.”

Readers of this history of Fulwell are invited to take a trip back in time and revisit old Sea Road with its many well-remembered businesses.

Who remembers shops like Howards and Duncans and Trembaths. Photographs from times gone by are a big contributor to this nostalgic look at old Sunderland.

Take a look at this photograph of Howards – typical of Norman’s Memory Lane journey.

Norman added: “They are still talked about fondly – and what about Gordon Moody, who sold just about everything in his second-hand emporium?

The book is now available, priced at £9.99.

It is available from Fulwell Library and the Sunderland Antiquarian Society which is based at 6 Douro Terrace in Sunderland.

The society’s base is open each Saturday and Wednesday morning.

Norman can also be contacted on oldsunderland@yahoo.co.uk for postal orders and to share Fulwell stories.

Norman’s new offering is volume one. He explained: “There was so much information that I have had to stop at 180 pages and will publish a second volume at the end of the year.”

We look forward to it with interest and in the meantime, get your copy of volume one from Fulwell Library and the Sunderland Antiquarian Society.