Why Sunderland streets Tel-El-Kabir Road and Cairo Street are named after places in Egypt

Little Italy, Little China, Little Korea...it’s not unusual for areas to be named after the background of the immigrant populations who live there.

Tuesday, 30th July 2019, 4:30 pm
Why is Tel-El-Kebir Road called Tel-El-Kebir Road?

But Sunderland is hardly famed for its population of expat Egyptians – so why does it have its own Little Egypt? And why are two Hendon streets named in honour of an obscure battle fought more than 3,000 miles away.

Where are the streets?

Tek-El-Kabir road and Cairo Street are both in Hendon in the east end of Sunderland and the streets cross each other.

Cairo Street

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They are the only two with the Egyption monikers and neighbouring streets are St Leonards Street, Fuller Road and Percy Terrace.

So why are Sunderland streets after places in Egypt?

The streets were built shortly after the battle of Tel-El-Kebir, a major battle in the the fought between the British and French after an uprising by Egyption army officers in 1882.

The battle was a decisive victory for the British and was at the time seen as a triumph that should be commemorated.

Tel-El-Kebir Road

Did this happen a lot then?

Well yes, Hendon’s Tel-El-Kebir Road and Cairo Street, were built in the late 1800s, at a time the British Empire was at its height and it was common to name new streets and buildings after significant moments in Imperial history.

The ‘long streets,’ which run parallel to the railway line from Villette Road all the way to Grangetown, are not the only example in Sunderland – others include Mafeking Street in Millfield, named after the town famously beseiged – and eventually relieved – in the Boer War, and the city’s very own Trafalgar Square in the East End.

In 1820, the East End’s Back Lonnin was given the somewhat grander (at the time anyway) name of Coronation Street to mark the crowning of King George lV, while the Queen Consort of King Edward VII has both a road AND a bridge named in her honour in Sunderland. Her name? Queen Alexandra.

The Battle of Tel-El-Kebir may not have the same resonance as Waterloo or Trafalgar – or even Camperdown, at which Sunderland’s own Jack Crawford found fame – but it was critical in maintaining British access to the Suez Canal so builders only felt it right to commemorate it.

Who would have lived in the Long Streets originally?

Nineteenth Century industry was very labour-intensive and many business owners would build homes like the cottages on Cairo Street and Tel-El-Kebir Street for their workers.

The Wearmouth Coal Company had planned to build a colliery south of the river and bought up the land.

When the plan fell through, the firm decided to cut its losses and develop the site for housing.

Tenants living in the Long Streets would have been workers from the town’s pits and shipyards.