Sunderland Guide: Monkwearmouth
Location: To the immediate North of the River Wear from Wearmouth Bridge
Monkwearmouth is the traditional name of the area on the north bank of the River Wear as it reaches the sea. Originating in the 7th century as an Anglo-Saxon settlement based around the historic St. Peter’s Church, the area is the oldest continuously inhabited suburb of Sunderland.
As its name suggests, Monkwearmouth emerged as part of the Monkwearmouth-Jarrow priory in the Kingdom of Northumbria, of which was resident to the Venerable Bede, who compiled the earliest record of English history. In 674, St. Peter’s church was built.
Long after the days of the priory, Monkwearmouth persisted as a medieval village and parish rooted around the church, and encompassed new adjacent communities appearing in Southwick and Fulwell. On more than one occasion, Monkwearmouth was a target of Scottish reprisal against England, with King Malcolm of Scotland personally ransacking St. Peter’s church in 1070.
As the centuries went by, Monkwearmouth eventually developed into an industrial and shipping community which was gradually absorbed into the emerging town of Sunderland. In 1796, the first Wearmouth Bridge was constructed, formally binding Sunderland together as one. In the 19th century, Monkwearmouth rapidly expanded and a new suburb emerged known as Roker, with an affluent community and beach resort emerging on the seafront and working terraced houses to the west.
For over 150 years the heart of economic life in Monkwearmouth was the colliery situated on the banks of the river wear, lasting from 1835 to 1993. The site of the colliery soon become the location of Sunderland football club’s new home, the Stadium of Light in 1997, after 99 years at the nearby Roker Park.
Getting in and around
Monkwearmouth is a central location which makes it easily accessible by public transport. Your best bet is to take the Tyne and Wear Metro and get off at St. Peter’s station, which is central to everything. The central area, known as the Wheatsheaf after the popular pub, can also be reached by the 3, 4, 13, 23 and 20 buses due to it being central to all routes. Finally, if you want to catch a view of the River Wear, you can just walk from Sunderland City Centre across Wearmouth Bridge.
Things to see and do
Monkwearmouth is one of the best places in Sunderland to visit. As noted above, the area is home to the Stadium of Light, where you can watch SAFC play, as well as concerts of the world’s leading names in music which have recently included Elton John and Ed Sheeran. Next to the Stadium is the Sunderland Aquatic Centre, the city’s largest swimming pool which also contains a gymnasium.
Also near the Stadium of Light is the Sunderland Fans Museum. Occupying the former Monkwearmouth Railway Station building with its beautiful classical architecture, this museum contains football memorabilia and items from all over the world including shirts signed by some of the biggest stars in the history of the game.
Towards the mouth of the River Wear is the historic St. Peter’s church, which is open for visiting. With it is St. Peter’s Campus of the University of Sunderland. The area also contains the national glass centre, however as of 2023 this has been closed due to structural problems.
Further down is the gorgeous Sunderland Marina, redeveloped out of the historic North Dock. This area offers a thoroughfare to Roker beach itself. The Riverside area is a very beautiful walking route and is great for a day out.
Things to eat and drink
Monkwearmouth’s most famous pub, located on Roker Avenue is known as the Wheatsheaf. Built in the 1890s, it is one of the oldest pubs in Sunderland. Monkwearmouth also possesses the largest Tesco supermarket in Sunderland, which has effectively everything.
Other good places to eat and drink include the Karbon Grill at the Hilton Garden Inn hotel opposite the Stadium of Light, as well as the new Vaux Brewery bar and eatery on Monk Street. Finally if you need something more simple there’s also a McDonald’s.
But f none of this suits you, you can walk to Roker Seafront and try out the promenade.