Old Sunderland


Going to Sunderland to look for the tall ships introduced me to a very different side of the city – the Georgian remnants of the old town, much closer to both the river and the original seafront than the modern town centre.

The first glimpse was a lovely terrace that I walked past on the way to the museum – maybe the early Victorian tail end of an originally Georgian development, but not something I expected to see there, anyway!

Georgian Terrace

Sunderland was officially part of Bishopwearmouth, further up the river, until it became a separate parish with the building of Holy Trinity Church in 1719, on the edge of the Town Moor.

Holy Trinity church

The church was holding a Georgian Festival as part of the tall ships events, although there wasn’t very much going on there by the time I turned up – you couldn’t get into the church itself except as part of a guided tour, as there is work going on to turn it into a community venue, but there were various stalls in the garden, and I was sad to see I’d missed a Collingwood talk the day before.

Next door are the buildings of the Donnison School, opened in 1798 to provide free education to poor girls.

The Donnison school

Next door again is the most striking Age of Sail landmark, the Trafalgar Square almshouses.

Trafalgar Square almshouses

These are really early Victorian, built in 1840 as housing for retired seamen and their dependents – but the style is still perfectly Georgian, no Victorian ornamentation.

Trafalgar Square plaque

The fancy arms are essentially Nelson’s – the sailor and lion as supporters are his, and the crown and ship and chelengk at the top, however unrecognisable, and the left hand oval with the Nelson cross and the motto of the Order of the Bath around it, and his own motto at the bottom – but the right hand oval, with apparently three sheep’s heads and the back of a possible elephant, eludes me.

Trafalgar Square trustees

A more recent addition is a monument to the men of Sunderland who served at Trafalgar, listed by their ship – this dates to 2010, which presumably makes it part of the Collingwood celebrations, rather than the Trafalgar bicentenary 5 years earlier.

Trafalgar memorial

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