Wearside Echoes: Home Sweet Home for history group - at last

OLD SUNDERLAND: A photo from the Antiquarian collection.
OLD SUNDERLAND: A photo from the Antiquarian collection.
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THERE’S no place like home for one of Wearside’s oldest groups.

Members of Sunderland Antiquarian Society finally have somewhere to call their own after 112 years - the former parliamentary office of MP Chris Mullin at 6 Douro Terrace.

OLD SCENE: The Queen's Hotel can be seen in this old photograph of Sunderland, which is one of the many images stored in the Antiquarian archives.

OLD SCENE: The Queen's Hotel can be seen in this old photograph of Sunderland, which is one of the many images stored in the Antiquarian archives.

“The terrace has a long history, just like our society,” said president Douglas Smith. “It was built in the 1850s by Sunderland solicitor and Mayor A.J. Moore.

“Designed as a ‘house of superior quality’, No. 6 has played host to merchants, MPS, saddlers and jewellers over the decades - and we are now delighted to call it home.”

Sunderland Antiquarian Society was launched in 1899, to catalogue local history, and is today the oldest society in the city after the Law Society.

Generations of volunteers have devoted their time to documenting Wearside’s historical dates and places, building an archive of rare and often unique material.

The group has never, however, had its own premises. Solicitors’ cellars, the green room of a theatre and a concrete bunker have all provided just temporary bases.

Indeed, the group even became homeless in 2007, when building work forced them out of Southmoor School. Archive treasures had to be stored in a metal container for months.

“We were very lucky, and extremely grateful, when St Columba’s in Southwick stepped in to offer us a temporary base in their old infant school,” said Douglas.

“Then came the chance to move to a more permanent home at Sunderland Minster. We have spent a very happy four years at the church, but now we just need more space.
“The Minster gave us a home when we were desperate, and we will always be grateful for that. But our ever-growing amount of archive material means we have outgrown it.”

The move to Douro Terrace was made possible by local historians Phil Curtis and Norman Kirtlan, who spent a “lengthy time” in negotiations to obtain the lease.

And, over the past few weeks, Society members have been moving cabinets, photos, books, maps and document boxes to their new base - which offers three whole floors of space.

“Forget fancy diets, if you want to lose weight try carrying box after box of archives up 42 steps. It has a miraculous affect on your waistline,” said Douglas.

“The move has been absolutely exhausting, but absolutely worthwhile too. People have worked so very hard, and we are all very excited about our future in Douro Terrace.”

One of the many rooms within the group’s new home is to be devoted to map studies, while others are earmarked for research, meetings, archives and for use as a library.

Members are also planning a series of photographic exhibitions and archive displays, featuring topics including shipbuilding, churches, shops, pubs and sport.

“The move will give us the much-needed space to set out and present our archives in a more user-friendly manner,” said Douglas. “It is what we have always hoped for.

“We have also decided to extend our name, to Sunderland Antiquarian Society and Heritage Centre, to reflect these changes, with the aim of continuing to preserve our past for the future.

“And, as we now have the space to grow, we will be welcoming further donations to add to our material too - from single photos to any amount of documents and local books.”

The Society will officially celebrate the move to Douro Terrace this Saturday, September 1, when the archives will be thrown open to members for the first time.

An Open Day is also planned for Saturday, September 8, from 9.30am-2.30pm - when anyone interested in the history of Sunderland is invited to visit and view the group’s many treasures.

“We intend opening every Saturday after that, from 9.30am until noon,” said Douglas. “We also hope to be open on at least one other morning a week once we are settled in.

“Just over a century of collecting by members has produced a treasure trove of artefacts, providing more than enough research material to last well into the next century.

“This move marks a new chapter in the 112-year-old history of our Society.”

** The next Antiquarian talk will be given by Norman Kirtlan at St George’s Church, Stockton Road, on September 18. The talk will focus on Wearside’s murderous past and is open to all. Doors open at 7.10pm.

Sidebar: Former Douro Terrace residents

DOURO Terrace has played host to dozens of residents over the decades. A list of former inhabitants has been drawn up from old trade directories and includes:


No. 1 –– J. Scott, bottle manufacturer

No. 3 –– Davison, shipowner

No. 4 –– Louis Thiercelin, French vice consul

No. 6 –– P.R. Los, ship broker


No. 1 –– J. Scott, bottle manufacturer

No. 2 –– G. Matthew, shipowner

No. 3 –– D. Davison, ship broker

No. 4 –– J. Hamilton, ship broker

No. 5 –– C. Kirtley, timber merchant

No. 6 –– P.R. Los, merchant

No. 7 –– Emily Marshall, a devout church worker and early feminist


No. 1 –– R. Preston, slate merchant

No. 2 –– Rev Alfred Howson

No. 3 –– D. Davison, shipowner

No. 4 –– Mrs I Hamilton

No. 5 –– C. Kirkup, timber merchant

No. 6 –– W and F Wade, saddlers

No. 7 –– Emily Marshall


No. 1 –– Miss A Forster, schoolmistress

No. 2 –– R. Smyth, confectioner

No. 3 –– Mrs E.C. Bulmer

No. 4 –– D.J. Grieg, schoolmaster

No. 5 –– W.A. Blackstone, registrar of local births, deaths and marriages

No. 6 –– W and F Wade, saddlers

No. 7 –– Emily Marshall


No. 1 –– Miss A. Forster School for Girls

No. 3 –– H. Friend, finance agent

No. 4 –– E.D. Nichol, warehouseman

No. 5 –– W.H. Sayas, master mariner

No. 6 –– Mrs M. Wade and F. Wade, saddlers

No. 7 –– J.G. Hill, clothier


No. 1 –– Miss M.J. Arkell School for Girls

No. 2 – - Miss M.J. Arkell School for Girls

No. 3 –– Henry Friend

No. 6 –– Fred Wade

No. 7 –– G. Welford, surgeon


No. 1 –– Miss E.M. Ironside School for Girls

No. 3 –– P.J. Brown, inspecting engineer

No. 4 –– J. Swinhoe, manager

No. 5 –– E. Robson, director

No. 6 –– S. Isaacs, jeweller

No. 7 –– G. Welford, surgeon


No. 1 –- Miss Mallinson School for Girls

No. 3 –– P.J. Brown, tax inspector

No. 4 –– J. Swinhoe, manager

No. 5 –– T. P. Rayson

No. 6 –– S. Isaacs, jeweller

No. 7 –– H.B. Low, physician


No. 3 –– P.J. Brown, inspecting engineer

No. 4 –– J. Swinhoe

No. 5 –– T.P. Rayson

No. 6 –– Mrs N. Gibson

No. 7 –– H. B. Low, physician


No. 1 –– J.G. Pickering, Masonic Temple

No. 3 –– William Moore

No. 5 –– Alan G. Craggs

No. 6 –– John Cullen

No. 7 –– D.W.Brown

Sidebar: How it all started

THEhe 20th century was just a year away when plans to form an antiquarian society in Sunderland were first proposed.

Notice of a meeting to discuss the idea was sent out from the office of George W. Bain, of 46 John Street, on November 15, 1899.

But it was not until February 1, 1900, that the meeting was actually held, in the board room of the Industrial and Provident Society.

Sunderland Antiquarian Society was formed on that day, with Dr Thomas Randell, Rector of Sunderland, appointed as its president.

The main objective was then, and is still today, hearing papers on local history read by members, and printing those deemed “worthy.”

Dozens of volumes documenting Sunderland’s history have since been published – invaluable tools for both historians and students.

The minutes of the Society, complete from 1900, show members have always ‘done their utmost’ to preserve historic buildings too.

Among their successes can be counted the saving of Hylton Castle, Washington Old Hall and the old alms houses at Trafalgar Square.

There have, of course, been failures too. Long gone now are the Town Hall, Assembly Garth, and ancient East End Parish lock-up.

However, records of these, and many other important buildings, are still preserved for the future by the Society.

Sidebar: Historic archive treasures

AMONG the many treasures to be found in the archives of the Antiquarian Society are:

l** 18th century maps of the old town

l** Details of Sunderland men held as prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars

l** Civil War petitions to Cromwell, dating back to around 1648

l** Family trees detailing thousands of Sunderland residents

l** Trade directories for shops, pubs and businesses dating from Victorian times

l** Theatre bills announcing visits by Charles Dickens in 1852 and 1858.

l** A tracing cloth of the town moor, circa 1750.

l** Thousands of vintage photographs, including many on glass slides

l** Lithographic plans of Sunderland Docks in 1850.

l** The Panton Collection – a history of North East Methodism in original documents

l** Certificates of Exemption, allowing men to escape the Napoleonic press gangs which roamed Sunderland

l** The G.W.Bain library, including maps, prints and handbills

l** The journal of Sunderland master mariner William Story, written while a prisoner of Napoleon