In preparing this section of the website there was never any doubt that there was a lot of
material to be included, and that the task would be to limit it to a managable level. In the
research the amount of historical facts were overwhelming and this section can therefore only be
a look at some of the items, and where possible we have provided links to other sites that may
offer more details.
The history from the region also dated back further than we had anticipated, well beyond the early Christian presence to about 2000BC with the discovery of human activity on the banks of the River Wear.
Sunderland’s long Christian heritage developed from the gradually gathers around the Saxon monastery at Wearmouth. This was built by Benedict Biscop in AD 674 and was the school of the Venerable Bede – the Father of English History.
The name Sunderland was probably derived from the Sunder – land (the land divided by the river) that was granted to Benedict Biscop in AD 686.
Resulting from this Christian presence Glassmaking became established, with Flemings being brought over by the Church to beautify the monastery. This was the beginning an industry for which Sunderland is justly renowned. This can be explored in greater depth at the City’s highly acclaimed National Glass Centre.
Another important industry relates to the Port of Sunderland. Its heritage going back over 800 years, with the earliest evidence of maritime commerce being a charter granted in 1154. Industry continued to grow along the river, with docks being present since at least 1382. By the mid 17th Century the proximity of Sunderland to the Durham coalfield, stimulated the development of its export trade. An increase in port facilities and ships was needed resulting in the growth of associated trades, and commerce.
By 1840 there were 65 shipyards on the river and Sunderland took its place as the biggest shipbuilding port in the world. Sadly by 1988 the last shipyard was closed however the recent location of Nissan into Sunderland has acted as a catalyst for new jobs in the automotive and supply sectors.
In 1992, to mark Her Majesty the Queen ’s 40th year of reign, Sunderland was given the status of ‘City’.
St PETER'S CHURCH
St Peter's Church, Monkwearmouth is one of the oldest churches in Britain, where Christians have gathered for more than 1300 years. It was built in 674AD by Benedict Biscop, a pioneering monk who was given a grant of land by the Northumbrian King, Egfrith. Benedict built an important complex of church and monastic buildings in the Roman style, probably on the site of a settlement founded by Hilda of Whitby. Glaziers from Gaul (France) created the windows for Benedict’s church establishing Monkwearmouth as the birthplace of British stained glass.
Benedict's work was continued and expanded by his successor Ceolfrid, the second Abbot. Ceolfrid. Ceolfrid’s pupil Bede began his monastic life here aged seven. Bede grew up to be a gifted writer and his writings tell the early history of St Peter's and their sister church of St Paul at Jarrow. His History of the English Church and People is a unique account of life in 7th century Saxon Britain.
St Peter's Parish Church as seen today has had extensive re-building and restoration. Much of the interior dates from a major restoration carried out in the 1870s, though medieval stonework is visible at the south side of the chancel arch. At the north-west door stands the font. This is carved from local Frosterley marble and the symbols are associated with St Peter, of whom Jesus said, 'the rock on which I shall build my church’.
There can be little doubt that the banks of the Wear around this point have been inhabited from earlier times this being based on a “dugout” canoe found on the river bed in 1855 being dated to be about 4000 years old. It is not until much later that the area is mentioned regarding the manor on the north bank of the Wear from 1157 where Romanus of Hylton held the title in the 1150’s. It is with this family of Hilton that the fortunes of South Hylton are bound until the estates were sold off in the 18th century.
The name “South Hylton” is a relatively recent changer, not coming into regular use until the late 18th to early 19th century. Prior to this the place had been better known as Low Ford or Hylton Ferry.
In spite of its close proximity to Sunderland, South Hylton retained its individuality partly
because of its isolated position; there was never a “Through Road” although a ford had crossed
the Wear from a very early date, followed by a ferry from at least 1435. South Hylton was,
during the 19th and early 20th centuries a very busy place with a whole range of industries
including Forges, Foundries, Rolling Mill, Cement Works, Paper Mill, Copperas Works, Sawmills,
Shipyards and, Pottery
This community that is skirted by the Way on its south side has become very important in world terms for its association with Washington in the USA. Indeed were it not for a famous son of Washington on the Wear world history would be very different.
This area was known in 1183 as the village of Wessyngton. At that time William de Hertburn moved
to the village. Before surnames were in general use, nobles and landowners assumed the name of
the property they owned. Thus, William de Hertburn became William de Wessyngton. Over time the
place name evolved into Washington as did the use of surnames and one of the descendent was
George Washington. Five generations of George Washington's direct ancestors lived in the
Washington England before the family moved south and then emigrated in 1657 to Northern Neck in
the New colony of Virginia In 1789 General George Washington a descendant of that family and then
leader of the Revolution, became the first President of the new United States of America. The
capital of the new nation was named Washington in his honour.
For more details on America's First President click here.
It is not known whether William de Hertburn built the original Washington Old Hall or whether it already existed. The present Hall is a typical example of a small English manor house of the early seventeenth century. Built of local sandstone, it stands on the old twelfth century foundations. The arches between the Kitchen and the Great Hall are from the original house.
Although the route does not pass directly past this monument it is visible from section of the route. It was built in 1844, designed by John and Benjamin Green and is dedicated to John George Lambton, first Earl of Durham and the first Governor of Canada who died in 1840.
The monument is situated on Penshaw Hill, overlooking the River Wear and is modelled on the Theseum at Athens. It is dedicated to John George Lambton, first Earl of Durham and the first Governor of Canada.
Penshaw Hill, on which the monument is built, is associated with the local legend and song about the Lambton Worm.
The Earl was a noted politician and statesman of his time, being largely responsible for the Reform Act of 1832 that laid the foundation for our voting system that we use today. He also found time to be Ambassador to Russia for three years before ending up as Governor General of Canada.
The monument is approximately 100 foot long by 50 foot wide and rises 70 feet into the Durham skyline. By coincidence Benjamin Green also designed the 135 foot tall Earl Grey column in Newcastle, which has a sculpture of Earl Grey sat at the top, Earl Grey was the Prime Minister who passed the above mentioned Reform Bill.
It was possible at one time to ascend a spiral staircase that wound its way up the inside one of the Greek Doric style columns to the parapet, but this is no longer the case. The temple
An inscription which has since been erased read as follows:
This stone was laid by Thomas, Earl of Zetland, Grandmaster of the Free and Accepted Masons of England, assisted by the Brethren of the Provinces of Durham and Northumberland, on August 28th 1844 being the Foundation Stone of a memorial to be erected to the memory of John George, Earl of Durham, who after representing the County of Durham in Parliament for 15 years was raised to the Peerage, and subsequently held the offices of Lord Privy Seal, Ambassador- Extraordinary and Minister of the Court of Petersburg and Governor-General of Canada. He died July 28th 1840, in the 49th year of his age. This monument will be erected by the private subscriptions of his fellow countrymen, admirers of his distinguished talents and exemplary private virtues.
VICTORIA VIADUCT The River Wear is spanned by the Victoria Viaduct which was completed on the day of Queen Victoria’s Coronation in 1838. The bridge is based on a Roman viaduct at Alacantra in Spain. It was built to carry the first rail link between London and the North-East which was completed by the middle of the 19th Century. Although no longer carrying rail traffic, there are tentative plans to bring it into use again for more modern suburban transport.
It was originally a medieval fortified manor house, founded by the Lumley family. At the end of the 14 century Sir Ralph Lumley extended the manor house into the stone quadrangular castle. Sir Ralph Lumley, a Northumbrian soldier, played a key role in the defence of Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Battle of Otterburn.
The border regions of England were a turbulent place in the Middle Ages, and the marauding Scots from the north were a constant threat. This is reflected in the large numbers of castles in the North East dating from this period, of which Lumley Castle is one of the most well-preserved.
The Lumley family themselves had something of a turbulent history. Sir Ralph and his son were executed in 1400 for their part in an attempted overthrowing of Henry IV. Lumley Castle spent time in the hands of The Earl of Somerset, before being returned to its rightful owner, Thomas Lumley, in 1421. Thomas played a prominent role in The War of the Roses, including the siege of Bamburgh Castle. The Lumley family continued to dominate the history and politics of the North East until the 19 th Century.
Today the Castle is a hotel. The essential spirit and character of the majestic castle have been retained while at the same time providing levels of comfort and style that placse Lumley Castle Hotel amongst the top hotels in the North of England.
Durham's Prince Bishops were the direct successors of the Anglo-Saxon Bishops of Lindisfarne. The story of the movement of their see from this Holy island, to the land between Tyne and Tees begins at the town of CHESTER LE STREET. In 793 A.D the Vikings made their first attack upon the coast of Britain with a raid upon Lindisfarne. More raids were to follow. By the end of the following century the threat of further raids was such that the monks of Lindisfarne were forced to flee their island with the body of Saint Cuthbert and seek refuge on the mainland.
In 882 A.D, after several years of wandering the north of England, the carriers of St Cuthbert's coffin were eventually granted land at Chester le Street where Eardwulf, the last Bishop of Lindisfarne became the first Bishop of Chester le Street. There were a succession of nine bishops at Chester le Street until 995 A.D, when the threat of further raids, this time most probably from Scotland, caused the bishop's see to be moved once again. After more wandering, St Cuthbert's carriers were eventually led by a vision to Durham where a great church was built for their saint's shrine. It was at Durham City, that the later Prince Bishops were to rule.
"How when the rude Dane burn'd their pile
The monks fled forth from Holy Isle :
O'er northern mountain, marsh, and moor,
From sea to sea, from shore to shore,
Seven years St Cuthbert's corpse they bore."
(Sir Walter Scott)
Additionally the town of Chester le Street can trace its origins back to the days of the Romans however it does not have a great deal to show for its long history. The building of greatest interest is the eleventh century church of St Mary and St Cuthbert, which is built on the site of a Roman fort called CONCANGIUM. Here also stood at a later time the Anglo-Saxon Minster, where the shrine of St Cuthbert was housed. The present church has an interesting museum called the Anker's House, with displays concerning Chester le Street's Roman and Anglo-Saxon history. The Anglo-Saxon minster that stood at Chester le Street many centuries ago was the place where the first ever English translation of the Gospels was made. The translations were added to the Latin text of the famous Lindisfarne Gospels which had been brought from Lindisfarne to Chester le Street with St Cuthbert's coffin.
If you are looking for more information link to Chester-le-Street Heritage Group website
This point on a curve on the River Wear has a long history. Stone Age flints and finds of Roman pottery are testament to the human habitation of Finchale in ancient times, but the name Finchale came into being later in the Anglo-Saxon period, in about 600AD.
The first mention of Finchale was in 765, when a meeting was held in which the reigning king of Northumbria was forced out. Records also show that in 792, to 810, Finchale was the site of synods, or religious meetings that discussed church matters and discipline throughout Northumbria. All these events took place about 200 years before the story of Durham City begins.
The comparatively small priory started from its lowly beginning as a hermitage for St Godric - who lived a simple, lonely life in a crude hut for over fifty years. Finchale then became a Benedictine priory, dependent on Durham Cathedral, towards the end of the 12th century.
Building of the monastery complex began during the latter half of the 13th century, with numerous alterations and additions being made throughout the next three hundred years. However, there are still the fragmented remains of the early 12th century stone chapel of St John the Baptist, built towards the end of St Godric's life and where he was finally laid to rest. St Godric's tomb still lies beneath the priory church and is marked by a simple stone cross. Today however, the tomb lies empty, his remains having mysteriously vanished many centuries ago since when there has been much speculation about his final resting place. About twenty years after his death, a small group of temporary buildings were erected for the first prior and his monks sent to establish Finchale Priory, and the ruins of these buildings are still visible.
The walls of the priory church and many of the outbuildings, still stand to a good height enabling a clear understanding of the layout, although over the years much of the complex underwent a period of remodelling. This Priory accommodated no more than 4 monks and a prior throughout most of it's life and was a form of retreat for the monk from Durham. It was in use up until the time of the Dissolution in 1538.
Saint Godric who made this area famous was born in Norfolk, in about 1065, he worked as a pedlar for many years, but longed for adventure. Eventually he and some friends got together and built a boat to take them to sea. It gave them greater opportunities for trading their wares.
Early journeys took Godric as far north as St Andrews, in Scotland, and from an early stage in his life, he took a keen interest in Christian pilgrimage.
The Farne Islands and Lindisfarne were regular stopping points for Godric on his journeys, and he became fascinated by St Cuthbert, the hermit who had inhabited those isles four centuries before. As time passed, Godric's career became more adventurous. He sailed to Brittany, Flanders and Denmark and travelled overland to Rome and the Holy Land. Some sources said Godric was a pirate and he may well have been Guderic, an English pirate remembered for transporting King Baldwin I of Jerusalem.
Shortly after Godric visited St James the Apostle's shrine at Compostella, in Spain, he made the life-changing decision to become a hermit. In 1104, he chose Carlisle for his hermitage, perceiving it to be a remote part of Britain. However, he soon sought enlightenment elsewhere and his wandering brought him to a wild and heavily wooded site by the banks of the River Wear. This was not Finchale, but Wolsingham, in Weardale, where Godric encountered a hermit called Aelric, a former monk of Durham, who he became great friends with. After Aelric died in 1106, Godric received a vision from St Cuthbert instructing him to go to Finchale. Godric did not know where Finchale was, but headed first to Durham before being granted land at Finchale.
For more details access www.finchaleabbey.co.uk/History.htm.
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