ALL roads lead to a slice of history for Sunderland Antiquarian Society map archivist Norman Kirtlan.
The Washington-based local historian, who works as a forensic artist for the police, is never happier than when poring over vintage views of the North East.
But he is hoping Wearside Echoes readers may be able to shed fresh light on some of the puzzles his research has recently unearthed.
“Looking at maps can be fascinating, giving us a tantalising glimpse into the world of our ancestors. But it can also open the door on some intriguing mysteries,” he said.
“Street names can remain unchanged for generations. But, when local nicknames are incorporated into a town’s geography, it can lead to questions that may never be answered.”
Norman has spent the past few weeks researching the origins of several Sunderland street names which include the ancient word lonnen – meaning lane.
“Sunderland had many lonnens; famous and infamous,” he said.
“Keelman’s Lonnen was the old name for Hylton Road, christened thus because this was the route that keelmen took when travelling from South Hylton into the port.
“Back Lonnen was the name given to Coronation Street, when it was no more than a track running behind the old parish of Sunderland.
“The coronation of King George IV saw the track receiving its new title.”
Another Lonnen some Wearside Echoes readers may still remember was Jackie Bowmaker’s Lonnen in Hendon – named after a well-known milling family.
“Jackie Bowmaker had a number of windmills in the area, the most famous of which was in Hendon Road,” said Norman.
“When Sunderland expanded to the south, swallowing up farms and stately homes that had existed for centuries, Hendon Road replaced the old title of Jackie Bowmaker’s Lonnen.
“Poor Jackie was condemned to history, along with his magnificent mills.”
Over at Fulwell, a leafy lane ran across the northern borders with Whitburn – an idyllic right of way which appears to have had a very dark secret.
“Known as Cutty Throat Lonnen for hundreds of years, one can only speculate as to the murderous deeds that gave way to such a strange title,” said Norman.
Another lane with an intriguing history once lay to the east of the Low Barnes Estate.
“Monkey’s Lonnen later became Barnes Park Road, but its origins, while linked with a modern estate, are lost in time,” said Norman.
“At either side of Monkey’s Lonnen, very near to Mount Road, lay two ancient cottages, one of which was inhabited by farmers in the employ of the famous Pemberton family.
“The other was supposed to have been one of the oldest dwellings in Sunderland, dating back to the 14th century, and once associated with religious monks.
“Priory Grove, which lies off Chester Road, was christened after a lane of that very name. It is not hard to imagine that Monkey’s Lonnen and Priory Grove were at one time linked.
“But where, or what, was the religious building that gave them their holy titles?
“Perhaps this, along with the murderous deeds at Fulwell, is another mystery we shall never know the truth of!”
* Can you help shed any light on the mysterious lonnen names? Contact Norman on 07765 635128 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sidebar: 200th birthday celebrations
SUNDERLAND Pianoforte Society will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of composer Franz Liszt in December.
“For this very special occasion we managed to book the distinguished ‘elder statesman’ of the world of English classical piano – Antony Peebles,” said chairman Laurie Giles.
It will be the first time Anthony has visited Sunderland since 1972 – when he was a “brilliant and rising young star” of the keyboard.
“Since then he has enjoyed a vastly successful career, playing in 131 countries, and has become a world-renowned specialist in the music of Liszt,” said Laurie.
“He is coming to Sunderland to play a programme entirely devoted to Liszt, and is looking forward to playing Sunderland’s famous Steinway concert grand piano.”
Antony will perform at Sunderland Pottery Room, on the ground floor of Sunderland Museum, on December 6 from 7.15pm. Tickets cost £11 or £5 for students and unemployed.
“This is an important music event not to be missed,” added Laurie.
Further information on the concert can be found on the group’s website at: www.sunderlandpianofortesociety.org