Wearside Echoes: Take tea with the Mayor

Mayoress Barbara McClennen in the Mayor's Parlour, which will be open to the public on the Heritage Open Days.
Mayoress Barbara McClennen in the Mayor's Parlour, which will be open to the public on the Heritage Open Days.
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TREASURES from around the world – as well as those to be found on your own doorstep – will come under the spotlight during a history extravaganza this week.

Factories, breweries, churches and schools are throwing open their doors as part of the Heritage Open Days (HODs) programme from Thursday until Sunday – including Sunderland Civic Centre.

Plaques, trophies, military memorabilia and mayoral insignia will all be on show when the Mayor’s Parlour is opened to the public for the first time. Trips around the council chamber are also on offer.

Mayor of Sunderland Iain Kay and Mayoress Barbara McClennan are inviting Wearsiders to take tea with them during the HODs event on Friday – while providing a unique insight into civic life.

“This is a first for us,” said Coun McClennan. “It is an opportunity for people to take a look round areas not usually open to the public, and see some of the historic treasures collected over the years.”

The parlour has played host to many historic events over the decades, such as the granting of City Status, as well as visits by members of the Royal family and world-wide dignitaries.

More recent events in the parlour’s diary have included the signing of Sunderland’s Armed Forces Covenant – before the HMS Ocean crew exercised their Freedom of the City with a parade in May.

“The open day will show visitors the changes in mayoral traditions and history over the decades. We will also have some wonderful pieces of Sunderland history on show,” said Coun McClennan.

Among the items to be displayed will be Mayoral chains dating to the 1800s, a football trophy, Sunderland lustreware, model cranes, local glassware and a horn presented by The Rifles in 2010.

Household Cavalry memorabilia, as well as a ship’s bell and a piece of damaged plating from HMS Arrow – which was struck by an Exocet missile during the Falkland’s War – will be on show too.

“HMS Arrow was Sunderland’s adopted warship in 1982. It sailed as part of the Falkland’s taskforce and the piece of plating is from where the missile entered the ship’s hull,” said Coun McClennan.

Another highlight of the HODs event will be the chance to view civic gifts donated by visitors from around the globe, including industrial giants such as Nissan, twin cities and even the Queen.

“The council has been honoured to receive a great many gifts over the decades, from plaques to figurines and models. Work is now underway to catalogue them all,” said Coun McClennan.

“Sadly, details of the origins of some early gifts have been lost in time. We are therefore hoping visitors may be able to play a part in identifying these, and would be most grateful for any help.”

In addition to historic objects and gifts, visitors will also be able to view scrapbooks documenting the Mayor and Mayoress’s term of office so far – featuring scores of photos and happy memories.

“We’ve filled several books already with postcards, letters and pictures of events we have attended, from the Royal Visit to the Olympic Torch Relay and my wing-walking,” said Coun McClennan.

“There have been so many highlights to date, but the greatest highlight of all for Iain and I has been having the opportunity to go out into the community and meet the people doing their bit for the city.

“We are constantly humbled by the people we meet – there are hundreds, and hundreds, of volunteers playing their part. We are proud to be from Sunderland and to have met all these people.”

** Two tours of the Mayor’s Parlour and Civic Chamber will be held on Friday. Tours start at 1.30pm and 2.30pm. Visitors should meet outside the Civic Suite, opposite the Masonic Hall.

Sidebar: All invited

SUNDERLAND Antiquarian Society will host an Open Day at its new Heritage Centre as part of Heritage Open Days.

The society has just moved to 6 Douro Terrace, the former constituency home of MP Chris Mullin, and will host the event this Saturday from 9.30am to 2.30pm.

Archive material, vintage photographs and memorabilia from bygone days will be on show. An appeal for visitors to bring along pictures of working life in Sunderland has also been made.