All aboard for a heritage trip down memory lane

Sunderland Heritage Forum has organised a two-month local history feast of activities starting on Sunday, when the forum's newest organisation has been roped in to run historic bus tours in a vintage bus. Free leaflets with details of all the activities during the festival are now available from libraries, tourist offices and Sunderland Museum.

A TWO-MONTH heritage festival kicks off this Sunday with tours in a vintage bus round Sunderland's most historic sites.

The festival has been organised by Sunderland Heritage Forum – umbrella organisation for all the local history groups in the city – in co-operation with Sunderland City Libraries as part of the city's new heritage strategy.

On board the bus for Sunday's tour will be three local historians – Dennis Bulmer from the Fulwell Society, Frank Dembry from Monkwearmouth Local History Group and Pam Tate from Southwick History and Preservation Society. They will give a running commentary and answer questions.

The driver will be Trevor Hines of the North East Bus Preservation Trust (NEBPT) – the latest group to join Sunderland Heritage Forum.

Pick-up will be at the Stadium of Light Metro car park at the bottom of Newcastle Road at 2pm, returning there at around 4.15pm. (The cost is 3 and seats need to be booked by contacting Tel. 0191 5672438. No walking is required but there will be a short stop at Deptford.)

The Heritage Forum, which is co-ordinating the festival, was formed in 1997 in response to the burgeoning interest in local history and the fact that the city had established within it one of the largest number of local heritage groups in the country.

The chairman of the forum, historian Stuart Miller, identifies the demolition of the old Town Hall as the turning point for many people. "It stimulated a realisation that the Great Age of Sunderland's industrial activity, commercial prosperity and individual enterprise was embodied in many of the historic buildings of the city, and that as these decayed and disappeared the past was also being lost somehow. The startling devastation of local industry in the 1980s compounded this."

New groups are still being formed and more established groups are joining the Forum to become part of city-wide activities like the co-ordinated festival about to begin.

Naturalist and television personality David Bellamy – president of the Friends of Sunderland Museums – will give a celebrity lecture next Tuesday (7-9pm) at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. The title of his lecture is Stitching the World back into Working Order and centres on what needs to be done to save the environment. Tickets (1) are available in advance from the museum or payable at the door.

A week on Saturday at 2pm there is a VE Day concert at Sunderland Old Parish Church (admission free) and on Tuesday, June 7 there is a similar event to celebrate both VE and VJ days, at Fulwell Community Association.

Fulwell Windmill will host an amateur radio show on Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and 8, from noon to 4pm, to mark National Mills Weekend.

On Monday, May 9, Monkwearmouth Local History Group will host a talk and slide show in the local branch library in Church Street North (2pm) and is also staging an exhibition of Doxford memories, opening that day.

Throughout the two-month festival, there are guided walls – including a cemetery and the riverside and a geology walk along the seafront – as well as talks, family activities, slide shows, boat trips, tours and a variety of exhibitions.

Booklets covering the full list of events are available from local libraries, Sunderland Museum and tourist offices. And there's guaranteed to be something for every heritage enthusiast, however specialised the interest!

NO sooner had the North East Bus Preservation Trust signed up to join Sunderland Heritage Forum, than members were signed up to do guided tours!

The NEBPT was set up by a group of bus enthusiasts keen to pool their resources so they could support each other in their aim to preserve and restore old buses. They have saved many vehicles from the scrapheap.

The trust itself owns several vehicles in addition to the vast collection privately owned by its members. The group has succesfully expanded its work over the years and has had to acquire premises to house the many vehicles in various states of repair.

In 1983 they leased Springwell Bank Foot Locomotive Shed which is one of the oldest locomotive sheds in the world still in existence and probably dates back to 1826 when the first section of the Bowes railway – designed by George Stephenson – was opened.

The volunteers worked hard to adapt the building for their use. It now also houses a museum and is open by appointment only. For more information, email Membership@nebpt.co.uk or check out the website www.nebpt.co.uk

Activities include monthly meetings, bi-monthly newsletter, trips in vintage buses, rally organisations, restoration of vehicles – including passing on restoration skills to the younger volunteers. They are also collecting documents, photographs and artifacts to further expand the museum collection.

Publish Date: 27 April 2005