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«Docks and Port Driven by the needs of the coal trade, port and harbour were dramatically transformed over the course of several centuries. These ...»

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for Sunderland in 1845 on a promise of new docks and railway links. Hudson appointed Murray engineer to the Sunderland Dock Co. After Robert Stevenson withdrew in 1846, Murray took full responsibility for designing and constructing docks and tidal basin, with an access to the river and a south outlet directly to the sea. 41 The dock company, formed in 1845, was chaired by Hudson and heavily financed by his railway companies. An initial £225,000 built a coal-shipping dock for up to 350 vessels, which covered 18½ acres, and had at its north end a tidal harbour and halftide basin each of 2½ acres. Started in 1847 under Murray’s supervision, these docks removed the shoreline and a large part of Sunderland’s town moor. Other sections of the moor were lost to railways approaching from the south. The freemen and stallingers were compensated for losing the moor, and spent the money endowing the Orphan Asylum, built 1856-61 on the moor itself. 42 The first phase of the south docks opened in 1850. Even before the South, or Hudson, Dock was complete, Hudson was exposed as a fraudster, for he had used the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway Co. to purchase shares in another of his companies at artificially inflated prices. Nonetheless he was twice re-elected, using parliamentary privilege to evade his creditors until he lost his seat in 1859 as the dock company was failing, and fled to France. 43 By the time the sea outlet opened in 1856, £750,000 had been spent on the south docks. The River Wear Commission was reconstituted in 1859, with members from the Admiralty, Customs, local council and Wearmouth (North) Dock Co., taking control of the whole of the docks, harbour and river following Hudson’s disgrace.

From this time the commission’s engineer - Thomas Meik, Murray’s successor – took charge of all works in the port. Meik built the South Pier with its wrought-iron lighthouse in 1856, a new south harbour and Hendon dock in 1867-8, and a range of staiths and other installations. To reduce costs, much of this was constructed by the commission’s own labour force supervised by Meik. At the century’s end, the docks, harbour entrance and south outlet covered 203 acres. 44 With coal the main trade, there were more staiths and drops than dockside buildings.

The isolation of two vast grain warehouses, built in 1856 and 1863, only served to magnify their scale. One, by John Dobson, was a six-storey, eleven-bay brick construction with hipped roof. The second, built adjacent to it by Meik on the west of Hudson dock, had five storeys. These buildings, latterly used for cement storage, were demolished c. 1992. They were a short distance from Murray’s dock office (1850-1), the sole surviving building from that era. 45 After Meik’s departure from the River Wear Commission in 1868, his former pupil and assistant Henry Hay Wake (1844-1911) succeeded him. Wake remodelled the docks and took charge of building the long breakwaters, starting in 1883 and not fully finished at his death, which remain the most striking feature of Sunderland as a port.

He was also responsible for great advances in dredging the harbour. 46 Coal exports from the Wear peaked in 1927, at a time when other industries, most notably ship-building, were entering a long depression. The idea of providing a deepwater quay within the harbour had been talked about for 30 years before the borough council and commission resolved in 1925 to proceed, incorporating the scheme into the Sunderland Corporation Act of 1927. This great project, the most ambitious since the South Dock, commenced in 1930, financed by the Unemployment Grants Committee on the ‘New Deal’ model of public works with lasting benefits as well as occupying the unemployed. Corporation quay, reported the Sunderland Echo, ‘has given employment to hundreds of men over four years; it has swept away a considerable portion of the slum area of the east end; and it has provided the port of Sunderland with the most attractive and up-to-date import quay facilities on the north-east coast’. The new facility, which with its two-storey reinforced concrete warehouse and various cranes and conveyors cost in total £450,000, razed the disused barracks and 155 homes around Low Street. It also demolished the old fish quay, replaced in 1938 by the present quayside market. Sir John Priestman, opening the dock in 1934, saw the whole project as a courageous long-term strategy. ‘When it was decided to commence this vast undertaking we had little idea that the terrible slump then existing would continue so long.’ Trade was still far too bad for the quay to be brought into full use. It had served other purposes, though, and administered a boost to the town’s morale, at a time of overwhelming despair. 47 The board of the River Wear Commission met for the last time in 1972, when its powers were transferred to the Port of Sunderland Authority under Sunderland Corporation. The port, already hit by dramatic falls in coal exports, also suffered by the decline and closure of local ship-builders and of the Wearmouth colliery. While the commercial role of the port is being actively rebuilt, the most obvious growth in the 21st century comes from leisure uses, with a marina surrounded by modern waterside homes now occupying the shore of Monkwearmouth where once there were shipyards. 48 Surtees, History and Antiquities, I, cxxxvii-viii; Origins, 103-7.

Origins, 103.

Hydrographic Office, VA6; Vd49; Vd45, p. 116; Va8, pl. 12, p. 59; Va18, pl. 13-14, p. 55; Ve 44, 28-29; J. Burnett, History of the Town and Port of Sunderland, and the Parishes of Bishopwearmouth and Monkwearmouth (1830), 30-1; Origins, 168-9.





TNA, DURH 7/21; E134/5&6Chas1/Hil 28 (DURHAM); Origins, 103-6.

TNA, DURH 7/23; E134/1Jas2/Mich37 (DURHAM); Origins, 107.

TNA, E134/7Wm3/East20 (Durham); E134/7Wm3/Mich42 (Durham);

E134/2Jas2/East32 (Durham); Corder 33, 407; Origins, 104-5.

Corfe, History, 33; TNA, DURH 7/23; E134/1Jas2/Mich37; A Description & plat of the sea-coasts of England, from London, up all the river of Thames, all along the coasts to Newcastle (1653), 27; Northumbs. RO, ZRI/39/1; Origins, 106-7.

Cal.SP Dom. Addenda 1625-49, 263; TNA, E134/1Jas2/Mich37;

E134/2Jas2/East32 (DURHAM).

Cal.SP Dom. 1660-61, 242; Garbutt, A Historical and Descriptive View, app., 40.

Hutchinson, History and Antiquities, II, 520n-21n. A.J. Pain, ‘Spearman on the Admiralty Jurisdiction of the Bishop of Durham’, Durham Chapter Lib.HS Bulletin, 23 (1979), 46-47.Cal. Treas. Bks 1685-89, 108-9.

E. Mackenzie & M. Ross, An Historical, Topographical and Descriptive View of the County Palatine of Durham, 2 vols (1834), I, 261-2; DULASC, GBV 1.

R.W. Rennison, ‘The development of the north-east coal ports, 1815-1914: the contribution of engineering’ (Univ. of Newcastle PhD thesis, 1987), 7; Origins, 163River, Town and People, 13-20; S. Miller, ‘More the Work of Art than Nature: the Story of the Development of Sunderland Harbour’, Port of Sunderland Millennium Handbook (2000), 14.

Cal.SP Dom. 1675-76, 48-9, 148; Garbutt, A Historical and Descriptive View, 263M.W. Flinn, The History of the British Coal Industry: Volume Two 1700-1830 (Oxford, 1985), 166-7; Potts, Sunderland, 127, 129; BAC, 30.

Burnett, History of the Town and Port of Sunderland, 22-3, 30-1; TNA, E134/23Chas2/East 32, E134/1Jas2/Mich37, E134/1&2Jas2/Hil26, E134/2Jas2/East32, E134/4Jas2/Trin14; Cal.SP Dom. 1664-5, 283; DULASC, DPR 1679; Old Univ. Ms E.1.9 ff. 144-5; Hutchinson, History and Antiquities, II, 506.

Surtees, 25; Northumbs RO, ZMI B8/VII/21; T&WAS, 202/614/68; BAC, 58.

BAC, 33-7.

Origins, 106.

BL, RB 23.a.22235; TNA, E134/7Chas1/East 8 (DURHAM); E134/2Jas2/East32 (DURHAM); DULASC, GBV 1, ff. 11v-13v; DPRI/1/1671/W16/1; Origins, 166;

Fordyce, ii (1857) p. 493 Summers, Sunderland, 121-30, 254-61, 316-17, 320, 323-4; TNA, E134/7Wm3/Mich42 (DURHAM); E178/6216; Fordyce, History and Antiquities, II (1857) 493; DULASC, Add. MS. 762; BAC, 33-5, fig. 26; Origins, 166, 170;

Northumbs. RO, ZMI/B8/VII/9, /15, /21; ZMI/B8/XIV/1; ZMI/B8/VI/10; Barnes, 14-17;

Sunderland Antiq. Soc., Rain’s Eye Plan; Wood’s survey 1826; OS c. 1855 BAC, 35; 33, fig. 26.

Origins, 106.

Hull Univ Lib DDCB 13/68; /58; Sund Lib., Corder mss 36 p. 5; B&T 1737;

T&WAS, 202/614/6; DRO, EP/Su HT 5/1, 110-12.

Durham Chapter Lib., Longstaffe 41; Surtees, 69; Origins, 104-5, 138 TWAS, DX882/1; Cross ref. ballast panel Buck c. 1720; B&T 1737; TWAS, 202/614/68 T&WA, 1167/1; J. Fawcett, A Description of Sunderland Harbour, for the Better Explanation of a Plan Thereof (1718).

Local Act, 3 Geo. I c.3; River, Town and People, 13-20; S.T. Miller ‘The Progressive Improvement of Sunderland Harbour and the River Wear 1717-1859' (Univ. of Newcastle MA thesis, 1978); J. Murray, ‘An account of the progressive improvement of Sunderland harbour and the river Wear’, Proc. Inst. Civil Eng., vi (1847), 256-83; R.W. Rennison, ‘The civil engineering history of four coal-shipping ports in north-east England, 1717-1821’, Trans. Newcomen Soc., 74 (2004), 259-65;

Rennison, ‘Development of north-east coal ports’, 9.

Inst. Civil Eng., Tracts, 31.11; Murray, ‘Progressive improvement’, 260-3; T&WAS, 202/614/68; J.C. Hodgson (ed.), ‘Northern Journeys of Bishop Richard Pococke’ in North Country Diaries, II (Surtees Soc., cxxiv, 1914), 248-9; Newc. Courant, 7 Feb.

1756; for a description of the port in 1762, see Sund. Times, 1 Sept. 1876.

Miller, ‘More the Work of Art than Nature’, 18-19; Newc. Courant, 25 Nov. 1758;

27 Jan. 1759 Newc. Courant, 31 Jan. 1761.

Newc. Courant, 19 Jan. 1765.

DULASC, XLLL 942.81; Miller, ‘More the Work of Art than Nature’, 22-3.

DRO, D/Lo/X, 2; Murray, ‘Progressive improvement’, 260-3; Inst. Civil Eng., Tracts, 31.13; Rain’s Eye Plan, 17-21; Rennison, ‘Four coal-shipping ports’, 260-2;

BAC, 31-2.

Newc. Chronicle, 29 Jan. 1785; DULASC, XLL 387.1.

Murray, ‘Progressive improvement’, 260-3; Inst. Civil Eng., Tracts, 31.13, B1.10;

Rain’s Eye Plan, 17-21; Rennison, ‘Four coal-shipping ports’, 260-2; Garbutt, Historical and Descriptive View, 270-1; Brayley and Britton, Beauties of England, 143.

Rennison, ‘Four coal-shipping ports’, 263; ‘Development of north-east coal ports’, 14; ‘Matthew Shout (1774-1817)’, in Biog. Dict. Civil Eng. i, 605-6; Garbutt, Historical and Descriptive View, 272-4.

TWAS, 202/614/20; 202/614/66; 209/103; DX882/2; Rain; Brayley & Britton, 149Barfoot and Wilkes, 516; Guildhall Lib., RE 7253/1/65909.

TWAS, 202/614/20; 202/614/56; 202/616; Miller, ‘More the Work of Art than Nature’, 27-9; Rennie 1822; Wood 1826.

TWAS, 202/614/71; Miller, ‘More the Work of Art than Nature’, 27-9.

Rennison, ‘Development of north-east coal ports’, 35-6, 101-7; Miller, ‘More the Work of Art than Nature’, 28-9.

Miller, ‘More the Work of Art than Nature’, 31-5; Rennison, ‘Development of northeast coal ports’, 107-17.

‘John Murray’ in Biog. Dict. Civil Eng. ii, 560-2; J. Murray, ‘Account of the removal of the light-house at Sunderland’, Proc. Inst. Civil Eng., iii (1844), 342-55; obituary of Murray, Proc. Inst. Civil Eng., lxxi (1883), 400-7; Hydro. Office, L3222; DRO, Q/P/D/123, /156, /213, /233; J. Murray, ‘On the Progressive Construction of the Sunderland Docks’, Proc. Inst. Civil Eng., xv (1855-6), 418-55.

‘John Murray’ in Biog. Dict. Civil Eng. ii, 560-2; River, Town and People, 17-18;

Lambton Estate Office, bundle of reports and accounts of Sund. Dock Co., 1846-58;

bundle relating to building of Sund. Dock; Building News, 4, 26 Nov. 1858, 1184;

Sund. Herald, 14 Dec. 1860; Pevsner, 455; Local Acts 8&9 Vict. c.xcii; 9&10 Vict.

c.xiii; c.ccxxxv.

River, Town and People, 16-17; Newc. and Gateshead Incorporated Chamber of Commerce Yearbook (1914), 59; DNB; DRO, D/Lo/X 8; Miller, ‘More the Work of Art than Nature’, 30-7.

‘Thomas Meik’ in Biog. Dict. Civil Eng. ii, 532-3; Inst. Mech. Eng., IMS 92/7;

Illustrated Guide to Sund. and District (1898), 31-5; T&WHER, 2874; T&WAS, 202/616.

Local Act, 22 Vict. c.lvii; ‘Thomas Meik’ and ‘John Dobson’ in Biog. Dict. Civil Eng.

ii, 532-3, 242-4; N.T. Sinclair, The River Wear (1984), 11 & plate; I. Ayris and S.

Linsley, Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Tyne and Wear (1994), 24; Pevsner, 455; T&WHER, 5067-8, 4813.

Sund. Daily Echo, 17 Feb. 1911; ‘Henry Hay Wake’ in Biog. Dict. Civil Eng. ii, 811Hydro. Office, A5308; Miller, ‘More the Work of Art than Nature’, 38-40.

Sund. Echo, 10 Oct. 1934; Acts L&P, 17 & 18 Geo. 5 c.xcvii; Sund. Year Book and Diary (1946-7), 34; Corfe, 76; Sinclair, 13-14; BAC, 154-5; Miller, ‘More the Work of Art than Nature’, 41-3.

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