City of Sunderland

City of Sunderland
—  City and metropolitan borough  —
City of Sunderland
From top row to bottom: Echo 24 Building and Wear Bridge, Fulwell Mill, Penshaw Monument, Roker Lighthouse, Winter Gardens and The National Glass Centre

Coat of arms of Sunderland City Council
Sunderland within Tyne and Wear and England
Country United Kingdom
Constituency England
County Tyne and Wear
Established 1 April 1974
Admin HQ Sunderland
 – Type Leader and Cabinet
 – MPs Bridget Phillipson
Sharon Hodgson
Julie Elliott
 – Land 53.1 sq mi (137.46 km2)
Population (2001)
 – Total 280,807
 – Estimate (2007) 280,300
 – Density 5,290.8/sq mi (2,042.8/km2)
Time zone Greenwich Mean Time (UTC+0)
 – Summer (DST) British Summer Time (UTC+1)

The City of Sunderland play /ˈsʌndərlənd/ is a local government district of Tyne and Wear, in North East England, with the status of a city and metropolitan borough. It is named after its largest settlement, Sunderland, but covers a far larger area which includes the towns of Hetton-le-Hole, Houghton-le-Spring, Washington, and a range of suburban villages.

The district was formed in 1974 as the Metropolitan Borough of Sunderland as part of the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 and is an amalgamation of four former local government districts of County Durham. It was granted city status in 1992, the 40th anniversary of the Queen Elizabeth II's accession. The city had a population of 280,807 at the time of the 2001 census, with the majority of the population (177,739) residing in Sunderland.[1]



The metropolitan borough was formed in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972 by the merger of several districts of County Durham - Washington Urban District, Houghton-le-Spring Urban District and Hetton Urban District - with the County Borough of Sunderland.[2]

The metropolitan borough was granted city status in 1992, the 40th anniversary of the Queen's accession. At the Queen's Golden Jubilee the city petitioned to be allowed a Lord Mayor, but was unsuccessful. Although the city does not have a Cathedral, as it is located in the Diocese of Durham, it does have Sunderland Minster.

Between 1939 and 1945 the Wear yards launched 245 merchant ships totalling 1.5 million tons, a quarter of the merchant tonnage produced in the UK at this period. Competition from overseas caused a downturn in demand for Sunderland built ships toward the end of the twentieth century. The last shipyard in Sunderland closed in 1988.[citation needed]

HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy's biggest warship, is Sunderland's adopted ship. In March 2004 it was granted the freedom of the City. St Benedict Biscop was adopted as the City's Patron Saint in March 2004.

City government

Boundary review 2004

Like all metropolitan authorities, the city is divided into a number of wards or electoral districts. Each has three councillors elected for a four-year term. One third of councillors face re-election each year, and no city elections are held in the fourth year of the election cycle - this was when each ward's sole metropolitan county councillor was elected, prior to the county council's abolition in 1986.

The City has 25 such wards. When the boundaries of these wards were set in 1982, each ward had a roughly equal population. By 2004 there had been a considerable shift in population. In particular, the east and south east – the old parish of Sunderland and the mining village of Ryhope – had lost population to the "New Town" of Washington. As a result the boundaries were redrawn; Sunderland lost one ward and Washington gained one. The 2004 election for all 75 councillors was held on 10 June 2004.


The Local Government Act 1972 created two different two-tier systems for local administration, with different division of functions. As a metropolitan authority, Sunderland retained responsibility for waste collection, although disposal of the garbage was a county function, and for education. In 1986, when Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County Council was abolished, most county functions became the responsibility of the constituent districts, whilst new joint boards assumed the co-ordinating roles in the county. Thus control over economic development, of the Museums and Archive Service, of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Civil Defence Authority and of the Passenger Transport Authority is exercised not by committees of directly elected county councillors but by nominees chosen by the elected members of the five district authorities.[citation needed]

Sunderland has not had a separate police force since 1967, when the Borough of Sunderland Police merged with Durham Constabulary. The City is now part of the Northumbria Police Force area. This force was set up in 1974, and covers the whole of Tyne and Wear plus the much larger but much less densely populated county of Northumberland.

The city is unparished, except for Hetton-le-Hole which is a civil parish, and which has a town council.

Political structure

The City has had a Labour controlled council since 1974, and often before that. After the elections of May 2003 the political structure was 63 Labour, 9 Conservative, and 1 independent. The only Liberal Party councillor sat with the only Liberal Democrat as a "Liberal/Democrat" group. Three Councillors resigned from the Labour Party following disputes over the selection of candidates for the 2004 elections. Two became independent members; one joined the Liberal Democrat party, becoming group leader after the 2004 municipal elections.[3]

The reorganisation of electoral areas saw major changes in all but two wards, but the elections of 10 June 2004, the first fought under the new boundaries, saw little change in the political representation of the City as a whole, with 61 Labour, 12 Conservative, and 2 Liberal Democrat councillors elected.

The Conservative party won all three seats in a new ward whose boundaries spanned several old wards. The Liberal Democrats stronghold ward was abolished entirely, and became part of four new wards, and the Liberal Democrat councillors elected in 2004 were from two very different areas.

Following further disputes within the Labour Party, 3 councillors resigned the whip at the end of 2006 and, joined by one of the liberal democrat members formed an independent group, which is the minority party in opposition.

At the elections of May 2007, the Labour Party continued their decline. Labour lost three seats to the Conservatives, whilst former Labour Mayor Mrs Julianna Heron lost to an independent: the same person who had defeated her husband in 2003 and who was in turn defeated by him in 2004. The Conservative party made further significant gains in the 2008 election, gaining five additional seats and strengthening their support in others.

The election in 2010, held at the same time as the general election saw Labour gain 4 seats to increase their majority.[4] In the 2011 local elections Labour gained a further four seats from the Conservatives.[5] After the election the composition of the council was Labour 56, Conservative 14, independent 4 and Liberal Democrat 1.[5]

Parliamentary constituencies

Since major boundary changes in 2010, there are three constituencies covering the City of Sunderland, all currently regarded as safe for the Labour Party:

  • Houghton and Sunderland South
  • Sunderland Central
  • Washington and Sunderland West

In the 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2005 General Elections, the former Sunderland South constituency was the first to declare the results, and the tradition was continued by the new Houghton and Sunderland South seat in 2010.

The whole City of Sunderland is within the North East England European Parliamentary constituency.

Twin towns — Sister cities

Sunderland is twinned with:

In June 2006, officials from Sunderland and Washington, D.C signed a Friendship Agreement, hoping to promote the cultural and economic ties between the two cities. The cities share historical links, as the ancestors of the first President of the United States of America, George Washington, lived in Washington Old Hall, which is within the municipal boundaries of Sunderland.


  • Sunderland is home to the University of Sunderland. Most university facilities are arranged over two campuses: the City Campus is located on Chester Road, to the immediate west of the city centre, and the 1990s Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peters lies on the north bank of the River Wear, adjacent to the historic St Peter's Church (AD674). There previously existed a Ryhope Road Campus in the Ashbrooke district, but most - though not all - university premises have been relocated to the main two campuses.
  • Further Education is provided by the City of Sunderland College, which has five centres across the city: Bede, Hylton, St Peters, Shiney Row, and Usworth. There are also sixth forms attached to three schools: St Robert of Newminster in Washington for boys and girls, St Anthony's for girls, and St Aidan's for boys, both in the Ashbrooke area of Sunderland.
  • There are 17 state secondary schools, including three newly-built academy schools, and 77 state primary schools serving the children of Sunderland.
  • There are also three independent schools, teaching children at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

Regeneration and Future developments

Since the mid-1980s Sunderland has undergone massive regeneration, particularly around the central business district and the river corridor.

Sunderland City Council's Unitary Development Plan (UDP) outlines ambitious regeneration plans for a number of sites around the city.[7] The plans are supported by Sunderland Arc, an urban regeneration company funded by the City council, One NorthEast and English Partnerships.

Future developments in the City include:

  • The Holmeside Triangle
  • Vaux and Farringdon Row
  • Stadium Village
  • Grove and Transport Corridor



The Mackem accent and dialect is often mistaken for Geordie to people not from the region, as the two tongues share several similarities in pronunciation and diction.

Literature and art

The Walrus in Mowbray Park, Sunderland

Lewis Carroll was a frequent visitor to the area. He wrote most of Jabberwocky at Whitburn as well as "The Walrus and the Carpenter".[8] Some parts of the area are also widely believed to be the inspiration for his Alice in Wonderland stories, such as Hylton Castle and Backhouse Park.[9] There is a statue to Carroll in Whitburn library. Lewis Carroll was also a visitor to the Rectory of Holy Trinity Church, Southwick; then a township independent of Sunderland. Carroll's connection with Sunderland, and the area's history, is documented in Bryan Talbot's 2007 graphic novel Alice in Sunderland.[10] More recently, Sunderland-born Terry Deary, writer of the series of Horrible Histories books, has achieved fame and success, and many others such as thriller writer Sheila Quigley, are following his lead.[11]

The Salford born painter, L. S. Lowry, was a frequent visitor, staying in the Seaburn Hotel in Sunderland.[12] Many of his paintings of seascapes and shipbuilding are based on Wearside scenes. The Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art on Fawcett Street and Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens showcase exhibitions and installations from up-and-coming and established artists alike, with the latter holding an extensive collection of LS Lowry. The National Glass Centre on Liberty Way also exhibits a number of glass sculptures.[citation needed]

The Bath-based writer, Dan W.Griffin was student at Sunderland University between 1992 and 1995. His experiences are described in his book, No stranger to the P45.


Sunderland has produced a modest number of musicians that have gone on to reach international fame, most notably Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. Kenickie, which featured Lauren Laverne on vocals, also achieved a top ten album and wide critical acclaim in the mid-to-late-1990s. In recent years, a thriving underground music scene in Sunderland has helped the likes of The Futureheads and Field Music gain national recognition.

Other famous Mackem musicians include punk rockers The Toy Dolls, who broke the top five of the charts with "Nellie the Elephant" in December 1984; the punk rock band Leatherface; the lead singer of dance outfit Olive, Ruth Ann Boyle, who achieved a UK chart-topper with "You're Not Alone" in May 1997, and has gone on to work with fellow chart-toppers Enigma; A Tribe of Toffs made number 21 with their cult hit "John Kettley is a Weatherman" in December 1988.

On May 7 and 8th 2005, Sunderland played host to BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend concert - the UK's largest free music festival. The event, held at Herrington Country Park in the shadow of Penshaw Monument, was attended by 30,000 visitors and featured Foo Fighters, Kasabian, KT Tunstall, Chemical Brothers and The Black Eyed Peas.[13][14]

The Empire Theatre sometimes plays host to music acts. In 2009, it hosts Jane McDonald and The Drifters among others.

The Sunderland Stadium of Light is home to Sunderland AFC.


The Sunderland Empire theatre.

The Sunderland Empire Theatre, opened in 1907, is the largest theatre in the North East, reopened in December 2004 following a major redevelopment allowing it to stage West End shows such as Miss Saigon, Starlight Express and My Fair Lady, all of which have been performed at the Empire. The Empire is the only theatre between Leeds and Glasgow large enough to accommodate such shows.[15] It has also played host to an annual season from the Birmingham Royal Ballet for over ten years.

The Royalty Theatre is the home to the (amateur) Royalty Theatre group who also put on a number of low-budget productions throughout the year. Renowned film producer David Parfitt belonged to this company before achieving worldwide fame and is now a patron of the theatre.

The Empire also played host to the final performance of comic actor Sid James, who died of a heart attack whilst on stage in 1976.[16]


Over recent years Sunderland city centre has seen a re-development of the Sunniside area taking place, with new bars, cafes and retailers opening their doors on the Eastern side of the city. The Sunniside area now includes an Empire Cinema, Gala Casino and many surrounding eateries.

The Bridges Shopping Centre covers much of the City Centre and was opened in 1988. It is currently owned by Land Securities Group after they purchased the site in 1990. The Bridges and surrounding stores in the town centre include Boots, Burton, HMV, Debenhams, H&M, Starbucks, Next, TK Maxx, Waterstones, New Look, Tesco, Topshop, River Island, Aphrodite, Monsoon, USC, Ernest Jones and many more. The centre receives over 26 million shopping visits every year.

Media, internet, film and television

Sunderland has two local newspapers: the daily evening tabloid The Sunderland Echo, founded in 1873, and the Sunderland Star - a free newspaper.[17] It also has its own local radio station Sun FM,a community radio station Spark FM and a hospital radio station - Radio Sunderland for Hospitals, and can receive other north-eastern independent radio stations Metro Radio, Magic 1152, Galaxy North East and Century Radio. The current regional BBC radio station is BBC Radio Newcastle The regional DAB multiplex for the Sunderland area is operated by Bauer Digital Radio plc.[citation needed] The city is covered by BBC North East and Cumbria and ITV's Tyne Tees franchise, which has a regional office in the University's Media Centre.[18]

Sunderland's first film company was established in 2008; and is known as "Tanner Films Ltd" and is based in the Sunniside area of the city. The companies first film, "King of the North" starring Angus MacFadyen and set in the Hetton-le-Hole area of the city; is currently under production.[19]

Sunderland was named "The Facebook Capital of Britain" by the BBC in February 2010. The statistics showed that people in Sunderland were more likely to log on to the social networking site than anywhere else in the UK. [20]


The only professional sporting team in Sunderland is the football team, Sunderland A.F.C., which was formed in 1879.[21] Finishing 10th in the Premier League in the 2010-11 season, Sunderland retained it's status in the country's top division in 2011-12 and plays home games at the 49,000 seat capacity Stadium of Light.[22]

Sunderland also has the north-east's top women's football team, Sunderland A.F.C. Women, who have been financially separated from the men's team since summer 2005. They currently play in the top tier of English women's football - FA Women's Premier League National Division, despite their financial struggles.

Sunderland's longest stadium occupancy so far was of Roker Park for 99 years beginning in 1898, with relocation taking place due to the stadium's confined location and the need to build an all-seater stadium. The initial relocation plan had been for a stadium to be situated alongside the Nissan factory, but these were abandoned in favour of the Stadium of Light at Monkwearmouth on the site of a colliery that had closed at the end of 1993.[23]

Since the dissolution of Sunderland Nissan F.C. the City now has only one non-league side, Sunderland Ryhope Community Association F.C. who now play in the Northern League Division One after a successful promotion campaign in the 2009/10 season.[24] MMA fighter Ian "The Machine" Freeman also hails from Sunderland.

Famous Sunderland residents

See also


  1. ^ [1] Sunderland Statistics-source-Govt of UK
  2. ^ [2] Washington Tyne and Wear: Encyclopedia - Washington Tyne and Wear
  3. ^ [3] Sunderland's political management structure-Sunderland City Council
  4. ^ "Sunderland". BBC News Online. 2009-04-19. Retrieved 2011-01-03. 
  5. ^ a b "England council elections". BBC News Online. Retrieved 30 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "List of Twin Towns in the Ruhr District". © 2009 Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  7. ^ "Sunderland Unitary Development Plan". 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2009-03-10. [dead link]
  8. ^ "The Walrus and the Carpenter". Sunderland and East Durham History. Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  9. ^ Alice in Sunderland, Bryan Talbot, 2007, ISBN 978-1593076733
  10. ^ Robertson, Ross (2007-03-27). "News focus: Alice in Pictureland". Sunderland Echo. Archived from the original on 2007-04-02. Retrieved 2007-03-29. 
  11. ^ "Grandmother has write stuff". BBC News. 2003-05-06. Retrieved 2007-12-28. 
  12. ^ "Masters of Art". Sunderland Echo. Archived from the original on 2006-12-31. Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  13. ^ "Radio 1's Big Weekend: Penshaw Monument, Herrington Park, Sunderland". BBC Radio 1. Retrieved 2007-02-26. 
  14. ^ "Local boys shine at Sunderland's Big Weekend". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-02-26. 
  15. ^ "The Sunderland Empire Theatre". Sunderland City Council. Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  16. ^ [4] Ghostly Tale
  17. ^ "Newspaper Report for the publication: Sunderland Star". The Newspaper Society. Retrieved 2007-03-06. 
  18. ^ "Julia Barthram". ITV Tyne Tees. Retrieved 2007-03-06. 
  19. ^ [5] $6 Million film deal for North East Murder film
  20. ^ [6]
  21. ^ "SAFC history 1879-1889". SAFC website. 2008-01-02. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  22. ^ "SAFC Previous Grounds / History / Previous Grounds". SAFC website. 2008-01-02. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  23. ^ "Sunderland Cricket Club". SAFC website. 2008-01-02. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  24. ^ [7] Sunderland RCA FC grassroots football

External links

Coordinates: 54°54′36″N 1°23′06″W / 54.910°N 1.385°W / 54.910; -1.385

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