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Port 300 Exhibition – Sunderland Museum

If you have an interest in the development of the River Wear this is an exhibition that you should not miss. You have until February 25th 2018 to catch it.

Port 300 Exhibition traces the development of the Port and river over the last 300 years using old maps, art and history boards to bring the history of the Port and river to life.

One of the fascinating maps included in the exhibition (snippet shown below) is an old Lufwaffe map indicating target bomb sites in Sunderland – red and blue sites were marked for destruction.

Lufwaffe map

Elsewhere in the Museum is the Sunderland Pottery Room, the old wooden boat brought up by Harry Watts as well as other permanent exhibits dedicated to the industry of Sunderland – Mining, Shipbuilding, Pottery and glass making.

Sunderland Pottery

Doxfords West Gate
(Photos courtesy of Anthony Renton – Sunderland Tugs & Shipbuilding in Pictures)

Anthony Renton took this picture of the West Gate of Doxfords in March 2016

Sunderland Tugs and Shipbuilding (on Facebook) has shared the news that the old West Gate of Doxfords Shipyard is going to be pulled down as part of the works required for the new bridge.

There are calls for this structure to be demolished in a planned way to enable it to be reconstructed elsewhere in the City of Sunderland or at Beamish as it is one of the last buildings evidencing the long and rich history of shipbuilding in Sunderland.

If you feel strongly that this building should be preserved please write to your local councilor. Without a demonstration of public feel this building will be lost forever and another part of Sunderland’s heritage lost.

Visit of King George V and Queen Mary during WW1

Talk by Stuart Miller – Sunderland Museum 14th October 2017 at 2pm

We have received some more details about the talk by Stuart Miller at Sunderland Museum on 14th October which starts at 2pm. Attendance for Friends is free and for non-friends £2.

Stuart Miller will explain  how the River Wear Commissioners changed the river from shallow and sand-choked to a prosperous river capable of building a quarter of Allied shipping in WW2.

The Friends of Sunderland Museum will be giving out newsletters and selling Christmas party tickets as well as selling calendars.

The calendars are being sold to raise funds  because other sources of making money for the Museum have been lost because of the reduction in space in the Museum building.

Up in the exhibition gallery there is a very interesting exhibition about the Port showing before and after pictures, including a model of the first in the world wire rope-making machine which was invented at Webster’s Ropery in Sunderland.

You can also see a small but fascinating Diamond exhibition in the glass case in Museum Street, along near the lift.

Potteries in North and South Hylton

Some of the finds from the recent dig at South Hylton were pottery shards and this is not surprising as there were two potteries located in the area; one at North Hylton and the other at Low Ford.

Pottery Finds (Photo :M.Rainford)

The North Hylton Pottery was also known as Hylton Pot Works and was established in 1762 by William Maling who owned estates at Ford and North Hylton. William Maling established the business for two of his sons, Christopher Thompson Maling (1741-1810) and John Maling (1746-1823).

William Maling chose the site because it had a good bed of natural clay nearby and a river frontage for the shipment of goods. 

The family were not potters and the works were managed by Mr John Phillips who also leased the Garrison Works Pottery in Sunderland and became a partner to the Malings.

In or about 1797 John Maling’s son Robert joined the business and was in total control of it when it transferred to Ouseburn, Newcastle in July 1815. 

The site at Hylton was then taken over by John Phillips (or his son) and the site became tied up with the larger Garrison Pottery in Sunderland until it closed between 1842-1851.

When the pottery first started in the late 18th Century it produced Queens Ware mugs commemorating births and marriages, decorated with floral designs in yellow, green and Indian red. There is an early example in Sunderland Museum dated 1793. The first transfer printed ware in the North of England was made at this pottery and other products were more typical of Sunderland Pottery; brown and white jugs, pink lustre, frog mugs and jugs with Masonic emblems and scenes of Sunderland Bridge.

Low Ford or Dawson’s Pottery was located at South Hylton which was at that time known as Ford. In 1799 this pottery was owned by John Dawson, but it may have existed earlier under different ownership. The land on which it stood belonged to the Maling family.

This pottery was expanded when John Dawson’s sons came into the business with new equipment and buildings (erected in 1836).

Ground flint for the pottery originally came from a mill at Beamish but in 1840 a mill was erected nearby capable of grinding 20 tons per week. With these improvements and good supplies of Devon and Cornish Stone, the pottery was known as one of the finest on Wearside producing best earthenware and semi-china with the largest output.

John Dawson died aged 88 in 1848, with both his sons predeceasing him and the business fell into the hands of his untrained grandsons who according to local legend disagreed with each other. One of them started for himself at Bank Top, South Hylton making brown ware and the other carried on at the quayside making white pottery. Neither proved successful and in 1864 everything was auctioned and the buildings converted into bottle houses.

Dawson’s produced Queens Ware (light cream coloured pottery) pink, copper and silver lustre, lots of fancy goods, ink pots, teas sets and plates edged with pink lustre decorated in the centre with a landscape. The firm is said to have particularly encouraged their workmen to produce novelty items.

This information has been taken from a Sunderland Libraries, Museum and Art Gallery publication; The Potteries of Sunderland and District edited by J.T.Shaw A.L.A.Director (3rd Ed.Revised 1968)

Reference Publication

More information about the Sunderland Potteries can be found at :     

An example of a Dawson Pottery plate can be found here:     


Great North Museum

The Great North Museum (formerly The Hancock Museum) in Newcastle have a permanent exhibition of Roman artefacts telling the story of life along the Roman Wall.  Presently they have an excellent addition to the permanent display featuring finds from this region and London connected to the worship of Mithras

The museum also has artefacts from around the region and one of these items is the small Roman figurine found in Sunderland at Fulwell.

Fulwell Figurine Great North Museum (M.Rainford)

Another interesting item shows a lead and iron join in a gravestone. This method of joining stones together is described by Lister in his letter which was published in the Sunderland Echo in 1881. Lister describes how apprentices melted the lead from some of the Brigg Stones so they could sell it.

Repair to Roman Gravestone (M.Rainford)

Repair to Roman Gravestone close up (M.Rainford)

Penshaw Monument

We have received a query from a National Trust Volunteer asking if Penshaw Monument is connected to the Brigg Stones.

Penshaw Monument was built in 1844 and the main dispersal of the Brigg Stones happened in the 1880’s.

However when Mr Lister’s letter was published in the Sunderland Echo on June 2nd 1881 he alludes to previous attempts, in the days when his father had a shipyard at Hylton, at getting rid of the stones.

It is possible, but would need to be confirmed, that some of the stones used to build Penshaw Monument were from the Brigg Stones site. After all they were big blocks of stone, lying nearby, which would have been ideal for a building project such as Penshaw.

(It is also thought that some of the stones from South Hylton were used as foundations when the mediaeval Hylton Castle was built. )

A while ago Keith Cockerill took photos of some of the stones that are still lying nearby to the monument or used in the monument.

Here are Keith’s photos.

Lewis holes

Another example of a Lewis hole

These stones are lying near the monument.

Roman stones from a bit further afield

There is evidence of Roman masonry stones scattered throughout the North East, however some places are more associated with Romans than others depending upon occupation, strategic importance and transport. Obviously the forts and Hadrian’s Wall are well known.

Sunderland’s Forgotten Stones Project is looking at nine sites along the River Wear that are associated historically with a dam or bridge (large stone structure, known locally as the Brigg Stones) thought to have been situated in the River Wear at Hylton. It is thought the structure, if it can be found and if it is proved to be Roman, could have regulated the level of water in the river allowing boats to access Congangis, which was the Roman Fort at Chester-le Street or provided a river crossing or both.

There is evidence that the stones were mostly removed from Hylton in the 1870’s, by dredgers when ship building at Hylton was important. When the stones were removed they were dumped at Roker and in the Port and they can still be seen there and at other sites in Sunderland. A few remain at the Hylton site.

Since being placed at Roker some stones have been used elsewhere to provide decoration and protection.

Here are some behind the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland Football Club

Some experts and historians don’t believe that the structure was Roman and that it was built in a later period. The stones have recognisable masonry workings known as Lewis Holes and Opus Revinctum that were used by the Romans in their building works but were also used in later periods.

Lewis holes were used to help lift the stones – like this.

(Courtesy of NAG)

Opus Revinctum were used to clamp the stones together. Metal straps were sealed in using lead. There are records dating from Victorian times to when the stones were removed from the site at Hylton recounting how the apprentices removed the lead from the at Brigg stones to sell.

Here is a photo from the Roman Bridge at Chollerford with stones showing Opus Revinctum.

(Courtesy of NAG)

 Here we can see a couple of examples of the Sunderland Brigg Stones from Hylton with Lewis Holes and Opus Revinctum.

Lewis Hole stone at Roker

Opus Revinctum stone at Roker

Brigg Stone at North Hylton

Here are some accepted Roman stones showing the same type of masonry shaping used to decorate a South Shields roundabout;

Commercial Road South Shields ( Asda is behind)

These stones are thought to have been taken from the nearby Mill Dam where there may have been a small Roman Port. Possibly, this Port was used to load grain from the nearby Arbeia onto small vessels to bring round to Wearmouth (the river was known as Fluvius Vedra in Roman times), and then unloaded to smaller vessels to make their way up to the big fort at Chester le Street.

These stones are from the Roman bridge in Corbridge. It was excavated in recent years and the large stones that were removed were stacked 350 yards east of the bridge site along the river bank.

Stacked Bridge stones at Corbridge

 A few worked stones are still in the river bank at the bridge site on the River Tyne at Corbridge.


Worked stone in river bank Corbridge

Some stones were used from the Fort at Corbridge to build Hexham Abbey and some were used for St Andrew’s Church in Corbridge and can still be seen in the walls and in an archway. The stones at St Andrews clearly show Opus Revinctum workings.

St Andrews Church Corbridge

Roman archway St Andrews Corbridge

Evidence of other nearby Roman bridge sites can be found at Piercebridge, Bywell, Chollerford and Binchester.

This is what an artist thought the structure at Hylton may have looked like:

Here is a link to an article written by Sunderland Antiquarian Society about Sunderland’s Roman history : SAS article

Images courtesy of Northern Archaeology Group, Keith Cockerill and Margarita Rainford.

Potteries at North & South Hylton

Keith Cockerill has sent us two photos of pottery shards that he found around 10 or 11 years ago while he was walking the banks of the river at North and South Hylton.  Keith told us, “I was interested at the time in the two Hylton potteries on each side of the river. (North Hylton Pottery and Low Ford Pottery). To give you an example of what I found at that time, I enclose 2 photographs. Pottery shard 1 was found on the riverbank at South Hylton. It appears to be a small portion of a tile and shows quite a fierce gentleman brandishing a large sword upon a sailing ship! The other picture shows the vast array of pieces that are to be found along the riverbank at Hylton”.

Close up of pottery shard

Pottery Shards found at North & South Hylton

Stones at base of Penshaw Monument

Keith has kindly sent us a photo taken a few years ago where stones reported to be from the river and placed at Penshaw Monument can be seen. The cows are happily ignoring the stones, busily eating and there is a good view towards Nissan in the background.

Stones at base of Penshaw Monument (K.Cockerill)

Shiney Row stones

Keith Cockerill has sent us some more information on seven interesting large stones in Shiney Row. Like the ones at Claxheugh, they have no obvious markings that might indicate a Roman connection, but they are certainly more ‘worked and dressed’ than the ones at Claxheugh. 

Courtesy: K.Cockerill

They are just off the main road to the Herringtons from Shiney Row roundabout, just past Derek Moss Funeral Parlour at the turn in to Mill Pit Gym. Keith talked to the garage owner there and was told that they were placed in situ by the previous garage owner to stop cars parking there.  If you have more information about these stones please could you email your details to:

Courtesy: K.Cockerill

 Woodhouse Farm and stones in and around North & South Hylton

 Keith Cockerill has taken two pictures of stones at Woodhouse Farm which is on the North Hylton side of the River.

Woodhouse Farm

Woodhouse Farm

Keith comments that “the Woodhouse stones are ‘more dressed’ in appearance, but perhaps those that were located above water on Briggstones may have worn away less over time”.

Are there any other stones in the Hylton or wider Sunderland area that may be Briggstones?

In the old newspaper records of the 1800’s concerning the Briggstones “stacked stones” at South Hylton shipyards are mentioned following the removal of the stones from the River. Keith has seen a Mr Lister mentioned in respect to this. He has sent an old South Hylton Local History Society (SHLHS) photo which shows a pile of stacked stones.

Is this the stack of stones mentioned in the records and are the whereabouts of these stones known today? Does anyone recognise the location of this photo or have any more information they can provide? Do you know who took this photo? If you would like to contact us please email:

At the first meeting to announce the Project apart from the stones located at Roker, South Hylton and Wodhouse Farm other stones were mentioned, for instance in gardens. If you know the location of any other stones that may be connected to this Project please would you contact us, as we would like the archaeologists to look at all the stones identified locally. They will be making a record of the stones as well as trying to identify where the stones were quarried and when.

Sunderland Rowing Club Car Park – South Hylton 

Keith Cockerill has also drawn our attention to Sunderland: A History of the Town, Port, Trade and Commerce 1892 by Taylor Potts which mentions the setting up of the cements works at the Claxheugh site, but also gives more historical information about the quayside.

Taylor Potts : Sunderland: A History of the Town, Port, Trade and Commerce 1892

There is more information on the cement works here:

Sunderland Rowing Club Car Park – South Hylton  ( April 2017)

The stones located in the carpark of Sunderland Rowing Club at South Hylton were brought to our attention this week. Mick Lumsden visited the site and took photos and measured some of the stones.

Photo of Row of Stones at Rowing Club Site courtesy: Mick Lumsdon

The 15 stones photographed measured:

1) 120 x 80 x 20 cms
2) 110 x 80 x 40 cms
3) 126 x 80 x 30 cms
4) 110 x 90 x 33 cms
5) 125 x 55 x 10 cms
6) 150 x 80 x 40 cms
7) 130 x 70 x 30 cms
8) 150 x 96 x 20 cms
9 110 x 70 x 20 cms
10) 100 x 70 x 30 cms
11) 150 x 84 x 20 cms
12) 150 x 87 x 36 cms
13) 110 x 80 x 45 cms
14) 90 x 60 x 23 cms
15) 110 x 70 x 30 cms

Details of individual stones courtesy Mick Lumsdon

We don’t know the origin of these stones. They do not have Lewis holes or opus revinctum but are sizeable worked stones. An 1895 map shows stones marked as  nearby to the current site – are they the same stones and how long have they been there?

Toby Gill Quay

Around 2012, huge numbers of cup-hole stones were found on the riverbank just downstream of the old Toby Gill quay, just upstream from the Nab End sites and also in the same sort of area that Harry Watts found the dug-out canoe. What looked like old stone tools and a large metal spike were also found at this location, as well as a huge mooring ring embedded in the stone bed.

Nail at Toby Gill Quay (Courtesy of Keith Cockerill)


Mooring Ring at Toby Gill Quay (Courtesy of Keith Cockerill)

One large stone in particular was seen, nicknamed ‘Toby’s Stone’, which is shown in the photograph below.

Toby Gill Quay Stone (Courtesy of Keith Cockerill)

An unusual ‘crazy paving’ effect was seen on the ground leading to Toby’s Stone.

“Crazy paving” at Toby Gill Quay (Courtesy of Keith Cockerill)

A geologist who later visited the site reported that the crazy paving effect is a natural phenomenon within sandstone bed areas. Questions then arose as to whether the cup-holes were a result of human activity or if they were caused by ‘stone boring molluscs’.

Commentary and photographs courtesy of Keith Cockerill.

Lanchester Garden Centre

A foundation stone from Sunderland Borough Hospital can be seen at Lanchester Garden Centre. As the photos below show, it is a large dressed Brigg stone, complete with a Lewis hole.

Foundation Stone at Lanchester Garden Centre (Courtesy of Keith Cockerill)

Foundation Stone at Lanchester Garden Centre (Courtesy of Keith Cockerill)

Commentary and photographs courtesy of Keith Cockerill.