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Sunderland, England

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND, a seaport and municipal, county and parliamentary borough of Durham, England, at the mouth of the river Wear, on the North-Eastern railway, 261 m. N. by W. from London. Pop. (1891), 131,686; (1901) 146,077. The borough includes the township of Bishopwearmouth, to the south of Sunderland proper, which lies on the south bank of the river; and that of Monkwearmouth, on the north bank. Adjacent to Monkwearmouth on the north-west is the extensive urban district of Southwick, within the parliamentary borough. A great cast-iron bridge crosses the river with a single span of 236 ft. and a height of 100 ft. above low water. It was designed by Rowland Burdon, opened in 1796, and widened under the direction of Robert Stephenson in 1858. The only building of antiquarian interest is the church of St Peter, Monkwearmouth, in which part of the tower and other portions belong to the Saxon building attached to the monastery founded by Benedict Biscop in 674. The church of St Michael, Bishopwearmouth, is on an ancient site, but is a rebuilding of the 19th century. There is a large park at Roker on the north-east of the town, a favourite seaside resort, and (among other parks) that at Bishopwearmouth contains a bronze statue of Sir Henry Havelock, who was born (1795) at Ford Hall in the neighbourhood.

The prosperity of Sunderland rests on the coalfields of the neigh- bourhood, the existence of which gave rise to an export trade in the reign of Henry VII., which has grown to great importance. Manufacturing industries include shipbuilding, iron and steel works, engineering, anchor and chain cable, glass and bottle and chemical works and paper mills. Limestone is largely worked. For 5 m. above its mouth the Wear resembles on a reduced scale the Tyne in its lower course. The harbour is constantly undergoing improvement. The docks cover an area of upwards of 200 acres, ana there are several graving docks up to 441 ft. in length. The parliamentary borough returns two members. The municipal borough is under a mayor, 16 aldermen and 42 councillors, and has an area of 3357 acres.

The history of Sunderland is complicated by the name Wearmouth (Wiramuth, Wermuth) being applied impartially to the Monk's town on the north bank of the Wear; the Bishop's town on the south and the neighbouring port now known as Sunderland. In both Monk's and Bishop's Wearmouth the settlement was connected with the church. Benedict Biscop in 674 obtained from Ecgfrith king of Northumbria seventy hides of land on the north bank of the river, on which he founded the Benedictine monastery of St Peter. Not more than a year after the foundation Benedict brought over skilled masons and glass-workers from Gaul who wrought his church in the Roman fashion, the work being so speedily done that Mass was celebrated there within the year. A subsequent visit to Rome resulted in a letter from Pope Agatho exempting his monastery from all external control. Later Benedict acquired three hides on the south side of the river. The abbey, where Bede was educated, was destroyed by the Danes and probably not rebuilt until Bishop Walcher (1071-1081) settled Aldwin and his companions there. They found the walls in ruins from the neglect of 208 years, but the church was soon rebuilt. Bishop William of St Carileph (1081-1099), desiring to acquire the possessions of the house for his new foundation of Durham, transferred the monks there, Wearmouth becoming henceforward a cell of the larger house. Meanwhile Bishop's Wearmouth was becoming important, having been granted to the bishops by AEthelstan in 930. As a possession of the see it is mentioned in Boldon Book in conjunction with Tunstall as an ordinary rural vill rendering one milch cow to the bishop, while the demesne and its mill rendered 20, the fisheries 6 and the borough of Wearmouth 205. There seems no doubt but that the borough, identical with that to which Bishop Robert de Pinset granted his charter, was in reality Sunderland, the name Wearmouth being used to cover Bishop's and Monk's Wearmouth and the modern Sunderland. It was from Wearmouth that Edgar AEtheling set sail for Scotland, the account implying that this was a frequented port. In 1 1 97 the town of Wearmouth rendered 373. 4d. tallage during the vacancy of the see, and in 1306-1307 the assessment of a tenth for Bishop's Wearmouth was 5, 53. 4d., while that of Monk's Wearmouth was i, 6s. 8d. Probably the northern town remained entirely agricultural, while the shipping trade of Bishop's Wearmouth was steadily increasing. In 1382 what was probably a dock there rendered 2s., and in 1385 the issues of the town were worth 45, 93. 2d. annually. In 1431 the rent of assize from the demesne lands of Monk's Wearmouth was 5, is. od. A further contrast is shown by the number of houseling persons, or those who received the sacrament, returned ' in 1548: Bishop's Wearmouth had 700 and Monk's Wearmouth 300. From this time, at least, Bishop's Wearmouth seems to have been completely identified with Sunderland: in 1567 Wearmouth was one of the three ports in Durham where precautions were to be taken against pirates, while no mention is made of Sunderland. Monk's Wearmouth remained purely agricultural until 1775, when a shipbuilding yard was established and prospered to such an extent that by 1795 five similar yards were at work.

The Boldon Book states that Sunderland was at farm in 1183 and rendered 100 shillings and the town of Sunderland rendered 58 shillings tallage in 1197 during the vacancy of the see. In 1382 Thomas Menvill held the borough, which with its yearly free rent, courts and tolls was worth i, 125. 8d. Edward IV. in 1464, sede vacante, granted a lease of the borough, and in 1507, Cardinal Bainbridge granted it by copyhold at a rent of 6, which dropped to 4 in 1590. Bishop Morton incorporated Sunderland in 1634, stating that it had been a borough from time immemorial under the name of the New Borough of Wearmouth. This charter lapsed during the Civil Wars, when the borough was sold with the manor of Houghton-le-Spring for 2851, 93. 6d. Nevertheless the inhabitants retained their rights. Sunderland became a parliamentary borough returning two members in 1834. The charter of 1634 granted a market and annual fair which are still held. The charter of Bishop Hugh provided for pleas between burgesses and foreign merchants, and directed that merchandise brought by sea should be landed before sale, except in the case of salt and herrings. Bishop Hatfield gave a lease of the fisheries in 1358. In the 1Sth century commissions were held touching salmon-fisheries and obstructions in the Wear, while Bishop Barnes (1577-1587) appointed a water-bailiff for the port, and licensed the building of wharves for the sale of coal. During the 17th century Sunderland was the seat of a vice-admiralty court for the county palatine and in 1669 letters patent permitted the erection of a pier and lighthouse as the harbour was " very commodiously situate for the shipping of vast quantities of sea-coles plentifully gotten and wrought there."

See William Hutchinson, History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham (Newcastle, 1785-1794); J. W. Summers, History and Antiquities of Sunderland (Sunderland, 1858); Victoria County History: Durham.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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