Then and Now: The changing face of Pallion

Pallion Railway Station May 1959 old ref number 28-3212
Pallion Railway Station May 1959 old ref number 28-3212
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We focus on Wearside’s past and present with the latest in our Then and Now series – as seen through the lens of 
photographer John Brantingham.

THE thriving community of Pallion has offered a home to thousands of Wearsiders – and scores of shops and industries – over the centuries.

Pallion Shipyard April 1976 old ref number 43-6551

Pallion Shipyard April 1976 old ref number 43-6551

Firms such as Short Bros shipyard, Sunderland Forge, Jopling’s Steel Works, James A. Hartley glassworks and Hepworth’s clothing factory all gave sterling service to the parish and beyond.

And, while these much-loved businesses may now be long gone, memories live on through vintage pictures such as the one provided here by photographer and local historian John Brantingham.

“It shows the corner of Oxford Street and St Luke’s Terrace in around 1900,” said John, who has embarked on an ambitious project to recreate vintage views of Sunderland with modern shots. A large store selling provisions and confectionery stood on the site at the time, run by a merchant called H. Garbet. Today the same building is run as an amusements, off-licence and sandwich bar.”

The hustle and bustle of St Luke’s Terrace and the surrounding streets of Pallion make it difficult, nowadays, to imagine how tranquil the former country estate of Pallyon was 200 years ago.

NOW: The corner of Oxford Street and St Luke's Terrace in around 1900.

NOW: The corner of Oxford Street and St Luke's Terrace in around 1900.

Originally part of the ancient manor of Hameldon, which extended from Humbledon Hill to the Wear, it was owned by the Dalden family at one time – followed by the Coniers and the Bowes.

In 1572, however, the “whole tenement and grounds called Pallyon” was granted by Robert Bowes to John Goodchilde, of Ryhope, for 200 marks – including a fishery, meadows and moorland.

“There was also a ‘pavylion’, a cottage or farmstead, on the estate,” recorded historian C.A. Smith. “This ancient structure contained a priest’s hole, probably sealed up in the days of Elizabeth I.

“The Goodchilde family lived in Pallion for nearly 250 years, until the failure of the Wear Bank in 1815 alienated their estates. It seems a natural abbreviation from Pavylion to Pallion.”

THEN: The corner of Oxford Street and St Luke's Terrace in around 1900.

THEN: The corner of Oxford Street and St Luke's Terrace in around 1900.

Indeed, in a map of the area from 1737, “Mr Goodchild’s house” is marked as Pallion Hall – the family having dropped the “e” from their name. Also marked is Pallion Key – meaning quay.

Beyond Pallion Hall, according to the map, lay gardens and open countryside, as well as the River Wear and Clack’s Rock – now known as Claxheugh Rock – plus a waterside quay for shipping lime.

The 19th century, however – when Sunderland embraced the Industrial Revolution – saw Pallion change beyond recognition. Even by 1793, according to another map, there were many signs of industrialisation.

“East of the gardens was a keel slip or ballast quay,” recorded C.A. Smith. “Next to that a landing quay – a small shipyard – and some lime kilns with a brick and tile garth lying behind them.

“Here the Goodchilds built small schooners for use in their lime trade. The map also shows various fields, riggs and moors etc, with much of the land being pasture and provided with ponds.

“The last boat, built in 1816, bore the ill-omened name Vicissitude. Ill-omened because that year, thanks to a swindling manager, the Wear Bank failed – forcing the ruin of the Goodchild family.”

Despite the bad luck suffered by the Goodchilds, Pallion continued to flourish. It became a parish in 1868 – and the lack of transport links, or even a parish church, failed to halt the transformation.

St Luke’s Church was finally consecrated in 1874 – six years after the parish formation. The choir stalls and east window bore witness to the importance of the Short family and its shipping interests.

The Webster family by now resided at Pallion Hall, having taken over from Joseph Swan – inventor of the electric lamp. Nearby industry was booming as well, including engineering and glass works.

“Pallion became a very busy place in the 20th century, too,” wrote C.A. Smith. “A large proportion of the country’s merchant shipping in World War Two emanated from local shipyards.

“Low Pallion was largely demolished afterwards to make room for Doxford’s Engine Works, which became one of the country’s largest. Steels Engineering also expanded to sell cranes around the world.”

St Luke’s Terrace – as pictured here – went on to become known as The Golden Mile, offering everything from vegetables to medicines and general provisions – often at discounted prices.

Today the street is still extremely busy and John, a former Pallion resident, said: “You really can get almost anything here – from botox to bananas. The history of the area is fascinating.”

l Do you have old pictures of Sunderland you are willing to share with John? He can be contacted on 0796 0861605. Look out for more Then and Now photos in Wearside Echoes soon.

Remember our heroes

THE 50th anniversary of the last breeches buoy rescue carried out by Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade is to be marked by a special event this weekend.

Wearside rescuers joined forces with South Shields VLB to save 23 men from the Lebanese steamer Adelfotis II, which ran aground during a storm on January 20, 1963.

“At the time, of course, no one knew that this would be the last breeches buoy rescue,” said Sunderland VLB spokeswoman Katy Gill.

“But the introduction of modern lifeboats, helicopters and sophisticated navigation aids meant that the apparatus was no longer needed and it gradually became obsolete.”

This Sunday, to mark the 50th anniversary of the rescue, Sunderland VLB Watch House will throw open its doors to the public at Pier View, Roker, from 12-4pm.

Visitors will be able to read accounts of the rescue, as well as watch an ITV newsreel which depicts in detail just how the Wearside rescuers put their own lives in danger to save others.

“We would also be happy to meet anyone who has memories of the rescue, or who have any photographs of the event or of the ship aground on the beach. All visitors are welcome,” said Katy.