Five places to visit in the East End of Sunderland
What is known as the Old East End is where the story of modern Sunderland began. Here, a small town perched on the Southeast bank of the River Wear grew up to encompass the surrounding settlements of Monkwearmouth and Bishopwearmouth, giving them its name in the process. Once upon a time, all life in town was concentrated in the East End, which ultimately declined following World War II as the town’s centre of gravity moved westwards and its population moved to newly emerging suburbs on the periphery.
The subsequent decline of the East End has given the impression that it is a ghost town of sorts, which history has left behind. Yet this does not mean there is nothing worth seeing in this area. Here, we produce a list of places you should absolutely go and visit down the Old East End, of which remind us of our history and heritage. Let’s contribute to the area’s revival, and never forget our roots.
The Quayside Exchange
Built in 1814, the Quayside Exchange is a marvel of Georgian era architecture and served as a former administrative centre for the port and its sailors. The initial structure cost £8000, and was built by George Cameron, a grandfather of Joseph Swan. Today, the exchange is a a wedding, events and dining venue.
Built in 1785 on Queens Street, Phoenix Lodge is the oldest continuously operated Masonic Hall in the world, and is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Sunderland as such. The hall has recently been subject to a £200,000 renovation and restoration by Historic England. Its mysterious and highly symbol laden design makes it a place well worth visiting.
Not the famous location in London of the same name… which was built later, Trafalgar Square is a beautiful cohort of almshouses, built in 1840, to honour Sunderland navy veterans who fought in the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The houses have not lost their purpose over time, and continue to house navy veterans and disabled former sailors to this day.
Holy Trinity Church (17Nineteen)
The Holy Trinity Church, built in 1719, marked the creation of Sunderland as a separate parish, heralding a new era of its growth. The former church building, although long defunct for worship, was subject to a multi-million pound restoration over the past few years and reopened as a community events venue known as 17Nineteen, which hosts concerts, exhibitions and other displays. Absolutely worth a visit!
Sunderland Maritime Heritage
Located on Church Street East, Sunderland Maritime Heritage is a voluntary charity dedicated to preserving and protecting the city’s shipbuilding past. The charity seeks to “preserve the artefacts, documents, pictures and skills of the shipyard workers that contributed to shipbuilding in Sunderland from 1346 until 1988 when the last shipyard closed”. Although its location can easily make it overlooked, this facility is will provide an insightful and educational visit, integral to knowing Sunderland itself.