Memories of Sunderland: The Mowbray Park Hotel

To the east side of Mowbray Park and the Museum, going up the street known as Toward Road, you might notice a series of apartments. Known as “Mowbray Apartments”, the buildings are a funky sort of design and were constructed within the past 15 years. Attached to them, on Borough Road, is an older building that now contains the MyDelhi Restaurant.

That older portion of the building is in fact the surviving remnants of something else, which was once known as The Mowbray Park Hotel or Palatine Hotel. Having lasted 165 years, its life came to an end in 2007, the building was partially demolished and refashioned into its current form. At its height, however, the Palatine Hotel was one of Sunderland’s finest institutions.

Beginning as a tavern all the way back in the 1840s, the Mowbray Hotel was first known as “The Gardener’s Tavern” so called as it sat on the edge of the developing Sunderland town adjacent to fields, and as of that time, there was not yet a Mowbray Park, which would not come until the following decade. The small inn served merchants travelling onwards to the port of Sunderland.

The first landlady of the tavern was known as Peggy Toward. It was from her name that the street it sat on, Toward Road, now extending southwards into Hendon, was subsequently named. In 1844, as the Mowbray family sold land in preparation to create the public park of the same name, the tavern renamed itself “The Mowbray Arms“. By the end of the 19th century, it had adopted the name “The Palatine Hotel”. A lodge of freemasons, known as the Palatine lodge, held their meetings in the hotel in the 1850s.

After the tragic Victoria Hall Disaster of 1883, where 183 children were crushed to death following a stampede over presents, the hotel was forced to be used as a temporary morgue to hold the bodies. This led to longstanding claims that the building was haunted. In addition, there was also a legend the facility was haunted by the ghost of Doctor who died at the hotel from taking an overdose due to being heartbroken over the death of his wife.

Rumours of hauntings, however, never determined people and the hotel continued to hold a reputation as one of Sunderland’s finest places to stay, eat and drink. However, the decline of the city’s economic fortunes in the latter half of the 20th century took a toll on the hotel (as it did with others) as it reduced the necessity for people to stay in Sunderland due to declining industry and business. By the 1970s, the building was taken over by Scottish & Newcastle breweries who renamed it “The Mowbray”.

This deep set decline would bring about the hotel’s final closure in 2007, which ultimately seen the site purchased and converted into apartments, demolishing and rebuilding the parts of the hotel situated on Toward Road.