The prominent location of the Empire, courts and fire station in Sunderland’s centre must have been a source of particular pride for the Milburns, being situated right at the heart of Bishopwearmouth where roads from the north, south, west and east converge at the end of the High Street linking Sunderland with the world beyond as they have done for perhaps a thousand years or more.
The ancient community of Bishopwearmouth at the west end of the High Street or ‘Sunderland Lonnin’ as this street was known in historic times, had evolved over the centuries to become the very heart of Sunderland’s centre.
Bishopwearmouth was one of three communities that merged over hundreds of years to become the City of Sunderland that we know today. To appreciate Bishopwearmouth’s importance as the centre of these communities we should highlight the historical significance of the other two places that grew together to become Sunderland.
One of these communities ‘Old Sunderland’ formed the busy port that accounted for so much of Sunderland’s growth and development. This ‘sundered’ or separated land as it was known in Anglo-Saxon times, lies on the south bank of the river closest to the sea. It is this settlement that has given its name to the entire city.
The third community Monkwearmouth, the Anglo-Saxon ‘place of the monks’ lies on the north bank of the River Wear across the Wearmouth Bridge and is noted amongst many things for being the site of the Stadium of Light, home to one of the biggest and most passionately supported football clubs in Britain. It is also home to Britain’s National Glass Centre and the St Peter’s Campus of the University of Sunderland.
Close by are Roker and Seaburn, parts of Sunderland that grew in a later age where we find some of the best and most popular beaches in the country. The beaches are bordered by attractive promenades that host the crowds in the annual Sunderland Air Show that can attract up to a quarter of a million visitors. At Roker we may also find the extraordinary architectural gem of St Andrew’s church. Known as the ‘Cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement’ this amazing building which showcases the innovative artistic movement which had reached its peak in Edwardian times is yet another of Sunderland’s splendid Edwardian icons and dates from that magical year of 1907.
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