The Civil War – Sunderland Vs Newcastle
Sunderland grew to become the largest town on Eastern England mainly through is reputation as a great coal exporting harbor, using the mouth of the River Wear to ship coal.
Nearby, the City of Newcastle and its people were not too fond of this as they held a Royal Charter which restricted the shipment of coal from nearby ports including that of Sunderland.
Newcastle was a wealthy and powerful town and during the civil war Newcastle became a Royalist city and the rivalry was now greater than ever.
Sunderland, partly influenced by its large contingent of Scottish traders supported the Parliamentarians under Oliver Cromwell.
In 1642 Sunderland received a garrison of Parliamentarians from Cromwell composed mainly of Scots. Sunderland therefore became a centre for Parliamentarian offensives against Royalist strongholds of North Eastern England like the city of Durham and Newcastle.
Sunderland’s stance in the Civil War only made things even bitterer between them and the Newcastle Royalists.
Prior to the civil war Newcastle was the major supplier of coal to London. If Sunderland had followed Newcastle and supported the Royalist cause, the essential supply of coal to Cromwell’s London would have been virtually cut off.
In fairness to Sunderland, it was perhaps not surprising that its sympathies lay with the Parliamentarians rather than the Royalists, as after all it was a Royal Charter that restricted Sunderland’s trade and gave Newcastle a somewhat unfair advantage in any competition between the two ports.
One result of the Civil War was that Sunderland and its coal port began to rapidly expand while Newcastle, though remaining the major coal port of Britain, had permanently lost its monopolistic hold on the export of local coal.
Today, the biggest rivalries occur when Newcastle play Sunderland at football!