Wearside Echoes: Sunderland’s fair history on show

OLD SCENE: Ryhope Roadd, Sunderland.
OLD SCENE: Ryhope Roadd, Sunderland.
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WEARSIDE’S rich and varied past is to come under the spotlight.

Heritage enthusiasts will be showcasing their work at the Seaburn Centre this Saturday, as part of the 2012 Sunderland History Fair.

Displays featuring archive photos of Wearside’s schools, shops, streets and industrial heritage are also planned, together with vintage film shows, battle re-enactments and family tree guidance.

“Over 60 groups, societies and organisations involved in the preservation and promotion of the region’s history and heritage will be taking part,” said co-ordinator Alastair Yule, of Sunderland Heritage Forum.

“This event gives people access to the expertise and knowledge held by experts, both amateur and professional. It is important to preserve our heritage for the future.”

Among the many highlights will be a display by Beamish Museum, featuring a room from a traditional pit village – where visitors can try out a tin bath for size, or have a go at proggy mat making.

Archive footage filmed at Vaux sports days is also to be shown, while staff from the Groundwork Trust will explain A Defended Land! – a project recording the history of the North East under wartime attack.

Examples of classic vehicles will be on show too, courtesy of the North East Restoration Society, while the Northern Historic Re-enactment group will bring to life battles of the past.

“From local history groups to regional museums, antiquarians from Sunderland and Newcastle, archaeologists from Durham and historic attractions like Beamish – the fair has it all,” said Alastair.

“Many aspects of our culture will be on display, from the Romans to the coal industry, and it is a unique opportunity for visitors to actually contribute to the common wealth of knowledge.”

Among the scores of Wearside groups taking part will be Sunderland Heritage Quarter, which was launched in October 2010 by Sunderland Heritage Forum to promote the city’s historic East End.

“We are having a stall to raise awareness of the Quarter,” said spokeswoman Dr Gill Cookson. “This fair is now the largest such event in the region – and a huge credit to Alastair Yule and the Heritage Forum.

“The scale and variety of things on display is really impressive. It attracts crowds of people into Sunderland for the day, and shows just how much of a draw heritage is, for people of all ages and backgrounds.”

Also taking part will be members of the charity Living History North East, an oral history project based at the old Donnison School in the East End.

“The fair has been a tremendous success over the last few years, and is a testament to the popularity of local heritage and the appeal it has for local people and visitors alike,” said project director Janette Hilton.

“Sunderland is quite unique in this regard, as we are well represented at a local level by a rich variety of societies, who collect and preserve our heritage.

“They are quite inspirational in their dedication as volunteers, and Seaburn is an opportunity to showcase their hard work. The city should support and invest in our heritage through these local societies.”

And local historian Pam Tate will be helping to run three stalls at the fair, on behalf of Southwick History and Preservation Society, Sunderland Maritime Heritage and Hylton Castle.

“The range of heritage and history on show, in displays, books, catalogues, DVDs and demonstrations, keep us all keenly interested. There are just so many things to see,” said Pam.

The first Sunderland History Fair, a bi-annual event, attracted over 3,000 visitors in 2008. The second, in 2010, brought in more than 4,000 – and this year organisers are hoping for even more.

“We’ve inherited so much more than just a set of genes from our ancestors,” said Alastair. “We don’t want to live in the past, but we want and need to be aware of who our ancestors were.

“The fair is an opportunity for exploration and explanation. There will be a wealth of knowledge to call on for help. If you have always wanted to know more about your ancestors, then this is your chance to ask.

“Households across the region have documents, films, photos, memorabilia and family memories, which can be evaluated and recorded by experts in their field at the fair.”

** Sunderland History Fair will be held this Saturday from 10am until 4pm at the Seaburn Centre. Admission is free. Free bus rides on a 1964 Daimler double-decker, courtesy of Aycliffe and District Bus Preservation Society, will also be on offer.

Sidebar: Exhibitors

Exhibitors at the 2012 Sunderland History Fair include:

Dickens Fellowship North East


Sunderland Antiquarian Society

Thorpe Thewlis History Group

Sunderland Civic Society

Milston Postcards

Gaunless Valley History Trust

Durham County LHS

North East Restoration Club

Silksworth Heritage Group

Wheatley Hill History Club

South Hylton History Society

North East War Memorial Project

Workers Educational Association

Chester le Street Heritage Group

Friends of Sunderland Museum

Friends of Mowbray Park

Families on Film

Northern Historic Re-enactment

Northumberland Bottle Club

North Eastern Police History Society

Robert Blatchford Publishing

Washington History Society

My History

SHAPS & Hylton Castle Group

Sunderland City Council

Coble and Keelboat Society

National Trust

Silksworth Banner Group

Durham County Record Office

Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade

Hetton Local History Group

Houghton and District Local History Group

Fulwell Community Centre

Living History North East

Allenheads Trust

Doxford Engine Friends Association

Monkwearmouth School

Aycliffe and District Bus Preservation Society

British Association for Local History

Souter Lighthouse

Roma Antiqua

South Moor LHG

Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

North East Labour History Society

Sunderland Heritage Quarter


North East Air Museum and Military Vehicles

Newcastle Society of Antiquarians

Durham University Special Collections

History Forum

Hartlepool Headland Group

Groundwork Trust

Tyne & Wear Museums

National Glass Centre

Raymond’s Fairground Organ