Although Sunderland grew to its current size and boomed in the early modern era, most locations within Sunderland have existed since the early middle ages, with most suburb and area names having originated from medieval villages, farmsteads and townships. Here in this article we take you through the best medieval sites and buildings to visit throughout Sunderland, giving you a special insight into local history.
St. Peter’s Church
One of the most famous sites in the city, and tentatively where life on Wearside began. The ancient Anglo Saxon church was built in the 7th century and was home to the Venerable Bede, who compiled the first history of the English peoples. The church is one of the oldest continuously operating buildings in all Britain, and there has been a push to get it recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site. The church remains open for visits and worship.
Southwick Village Green
Long before Sunderland was conceived as a united entity, the village of Southwick emerged in the Middle Ages and existed under the parish of Monkwearmouth, with its village green forming the core of the settlement for over 1000 years. Recently, the Southwick Village Green Preservation society has invested significant amounts of money in reviving the green and acknowledging it’s heritage, including planting flowerbeds, installing information boards and heritage plaques.
Sunderland Minster, town park and low row
Sunderland Minster, or otherwise known as St. Michael and All Angels church, marks the historic parish church of Bishopwearmouth, which was established around the 10th century AD. The green opposite, renovated in 2021 as the “town park” marked the centre of the village. The street immediately to the east of it, known as Low Row, has also existed continuously since the Middle Ages and not changed in shape.
Silksworth Hall and estate
In the medieval parish of Bishopwearmouth, Silksworth was a township which overseen the southwest of the city. Its name is derived from old English, meaning “Sigelac’s Enclosure” or “Worth”. The historic Silksworth Hall building marked the centre of this former medieval township, with a church purportedly having existed around the Doxford Park area near Morrisons.
The most notable and visual medieval building in Sunderland, Hylton Castle is a Norman era structure owned by the family of the same name, who overseen a lordship to the Northwest of the city. Next to it stands the ruins of St. Catherine’s Chapel. The castle was recently subject to a multi million pound restoration by Historic England who have transformed it into an accessible tourist attraction again. The castle is said by legend to be haunted by the ghost of a young boy titled “The Cauld Lad”.