History of Sunderland

Destination Sunderland > History

This is our guide to Sunderlands long & proud history. Read about how Sunderland got its name, why the Lambtons were cursed and just why was Penshaw Monument built?

From its earliest foundations in Anglo-Saxon times, Sunderland has grown and prospered on the banks of the River Wear. The city’s history and culture were formed by its connection to the sea and by the industry and endeavour of its people.

The city’s emergence as a focus for learning and industry began in Anglo-Saxon times, when the nobleman Benedict Biscop – recently named as Sunderland’s patron saint – established a European centre of learning at the twin monastic settlement of St Peter’s and St Paul’s. It was here that the Venerable Bede wrote the first history of England, the art of glass-making was introduced to the UK, and where the renowned Saxon Bible, the Codex Amiatinus, was produced. By the year 1500, Sunderland was one of the wealthiest towns in England and to this day it is still the largest city by population between Leeds and Edinburgh.


St Peters Monkwearmouth

In 674 A.D the land on the northern bank of the river overlooking the coast at Wearmouth was granted by the King of Northumbria to a noble called Benedict Biscop who used the land to build a monastery. All that remains of the monastery today is one of the most historic churches in England – […]

Sunderland Ship Building

Shipbuilding has taken place in Sunderland for as far back as records exist. The first record dates back to c1885 when a primitive 2000 year old canoe was found near Hylton in the River Wear. Thomas Menville was recorded in 1346 as building ships here and by 1840 Sunderland had 65 shipyards. By the mid […]

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 […]

The ghost of Hylton Castle

The two sides of the River Wear are currently linked by the Wearmouth Bridge (Built in 1929) and the Queen Alexandra Bridge (Built in 1909). Up until the eighteenth century however, the only way of crossing was by a ferry. This important ferry crossing was protected by Hylton Castle, one of the most historic buildings […]

The Lambton Worm

Penshaw Hill and the nearby Worm Hill are closely associated with one of the North East’s best known folk tales; The Legend of the Lambton Worm. At the centre of this legend was a young lad called John Lambton who often used to skip church on Sunday mornings to go fishing. This particular Sunday was […]

Where the name Sunderland came from

The most historic part of Sunderland is on the North bank by the coast called Monkwearmouth. Sunderland was originally part of Monkwearmouth and this is where the name ‘Sunderland’ derives. `Sundered Land’, is land that was sundered or separated, in this case from the monastic estates of Monkwearmouth. For centuries Sunderland was only a part […]