Should this Sunderland pioneer be honoured on a banknote?

A campaign to have one of Sunderland's very own favourites honoured is being waged by a former Wearside woman.

Friday, 23rd November 2018, 10:00 am
Sir Joseph Swan. Photograph courtesy of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society.

Meg Hartford is calling on people to nominate Sunderland-born Joseph William Swan as the scientist whose image will appear on the new £50 note.

She said: “I am asking people to nominate a local man who lightened all our lives by inventing the incandescent light bulb.”

Joseph Swans birth place Pallion Hall. Photograph courtesy of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society.

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Joseph was born in October 1828 in Sunderland “very close to where the Northern Spire Bridge is now”, said Meg.

He was educated in Sunderland and he “used the library facilities to satisfy his need for more knowledge as well as attending lectures at The Atheneum in Fawcett Street”, said Meg, who described herself as “just someone who is really interested in local history”.

Joseph was apprenticed to the Sunderland druggists, Hudson and Osbaldiston, and eventually joined Mawson’s Manufacturing Chemists in Newcastle.

In 1846, he became a partner in the firm which was renamed Mawson, Swan and Morgan.

Meg Hartford.

Swan lived at Low Fell, where he conducted many experiments including the development of light bulbs which he began work on in 1850. Ten years later he demonstrated a working device and obtained a patent. However, the bulb was inefficient and had a very short life.

Later in life, Swan returned to his experiments with the incandescent electric light bulb and in January 1879 he demonstrated a working bulb to an audience of several hundred people at the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle.

Meg urged readers: “Please nominate Sir Joseph Swan to appear on the £50 note.”

People can do so before nominations close on Friday, December 14, by voting at

A plaque in Newcastle in tribute to Joseph Swan.