A History of Mere Knolls Cemetery, Seaburn

The area to the north of the River historically came into being as the Parish of Monkwearmouth, originating from the Monastery based at St. Peter’s church. The village that grew around it was centred next to what is now the Wheatsheaf, with satellite communities in Fulwell and Southwick.

For over a thousand years, this land was owned directly by the Monks under the prior of Durham, until it was returned to the crown following Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Monasteries. The settlement of Monkwearmouth would nonetheless continue for three hundred more years or so until beginning in the late 18th century, the construction of a new iron bridge spanning the river would see it absorbed into the new urban expanse of Sunderland.

The unification of the new town seen the population north of the river expand rapidly, which led to expanse northwards, transforming Fulwell into a bulging industrial community, while also creating Roker as a beach resort.

This population boom seen the original Monkwearmouth Cemetery at St. Peter’s become incapable of serving the community. These small cemeteries become filled rapidly, consider that the Holy Trinity Churchyard south of the river is a burial ground to 100,000 people! This meant planners were soon looking elsewhere.

Their answer was to create a new cemetery to the north of the town, at a size of 32 acres. Known as Mere Knolls (although the origin of this name remains unclear) the new cemetery was opened in 1956 to serve the Fulwell community. It was built adjacent to the “Cut throat” or Seaburn Dene, the stream of course which the area derived it’s name from.

Many notable people have been buried in Seaburn Dene cemetery, including: Robert Thompson, Sir Robert Thompson, Lawrence Dickse and John Harkness. The cemetery was expanded to 42 acres in the early 20th century. What is notable about this cemetery is that it also hosts graves from Sunderland’s Muslim community.

Nowadays, the cemetery is a popular route to walk from Seaburn Dene estate down to the Seafront, and it is quicker to do so than heading down Dykelands Road.

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