Sunderland’s First Station: The Fawcett Street Station

If you walk down Burdon road towards the City Centre and Fawcett Street, south of the former Civic Centre, you might notice on the left hand side a gateway commemorated with a Blue Plaque. The plaque marks the site of what was known now as Fawcett Street Station, a former railway station which in the 19th century served as Sunderland’s Central Railway Station (1853-1879).

In the mid 19th century, Monkwearmouth Railway Bridge was not yet created, meaning that while it was possible to cross the river at Sunderland by road, it was not yet possible to do so by train (Monkwearmouth Station was different line and a different terminus). Although Sunderland was a vastly important port, there was no pressing demand for coal to cross the mouth area of the River itself, particularly because most coalfield areas (such as Washington and County Durham) were all situated to the west.

This seen the early Leamside Line became the central artery of Northeast logistics due to its position, crossing the Wear at Victoria Viaduct and connecting to Tyneside at Pelaw, with a branch (known as the Durham-Sunderland line) orientating Eastwards towards the port of Sunderland. These days, the remnants of this eastern spanning line compromises of the South Hylton to Park Lane Metro Lines. The key point of this however, is that this was the primary railway route into the town at the time, and the northwards route towards Monkwearmouth did not yet exist, and thus nor did the station we know today.

As a result, Sunderland’s first central railway station was connected to this Eastward spanning route situated South of the City Centre on Burdon Road. One can see under Mowbray Park how the coal freight lines continued heading eastwards towards the port. Likewise, a route also branched off from it heading southwards towards Hendon, down to Ryhope and East Durham, which is still in use today. The former Fawcett Station was logically at that time, the nexus of everything.

However, while railway originally proliferated in the North East as a means of transporting coal, its importance as a form of transport also grew, and as it happens the south side of Sunderland in the 1850s and 1860s did not have a direct route to Newcastle, and its railway links were split in two due to Monkwearmouth being part of a separate line (The Brandling Junction Railway). The growth of the town mandated a change, and as such the decision was made to create a new thorough route which unified Sunderland and Monkwearmouth’s Railway connections.

With this, came a new bridge and new stations. In 1879, the Monkwearmouth Railway Bridge was created adjacent to the Wearmouth Road Bridge, and on that same year a new Sunderland Central Railway Station was opened. This new line created the railway layout we know today and as a result “Fawcett Street Station” was soon rendered obsolete and closed down. While the industrial railway links to the port remained, the Sunderland-Durham line was now diverted upwards before Mowbray Park (just outside of Park Lane Station) making a single continuous route which defines the Metro System today.