History of Bishopwearmouth
The Bishopwearmouth Village Atlas was completed in September 2021 and is an in-depth study of the architecture, geology, history and landscape of the historic settlement. The two year research project was led by The Archaeological Practice assisted by a group of local volunteers and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The full Atlas and a mini Atlas are available for download through the links below:-
Bishopwearmouth Conservation Area encompasses the original village of Bishopwearmouth, one of the three settlements that would eventually coalesce to form Sunderland.
The village has Anglo Saxon origins, the earliest reference thought to be around 930 A.D when King Athelstan gave "South Wearmouth" and its appendages to the See of Durham.
During the middle ages Bishopwearmouth grew into an important and thriving farming community and religious centre dominated by the medieval Church of St Michael, although the Parish it served was extensive covering an area of some 20 square miles and included the small fishing port of Sunderland.
Physical links between Bishopwearmouth and the port were strengthened during the 15th and 16th centuries by the development of salt production, ship-building and coal-exporting industries along the banks of the river.
During the 18th century Bishopwearmouth was a small self-contained village set within a patchwork of fields punctuated by hedgerows and trees. Cottages with courtyards and narrow garden plots lined the village road which curved around the hill top church on its way to the port.
Bishopwearmouth Green has always been common land lying at the heart of the medieval village with Durham Road, Chester Road, Stockton Road, and High Street all converging onto it. Around the green were a multitude of small houses and terraces, interspersed with workshops, corn mills, slaughter houses and tanneries supporting village life.
By 1826 the village contained additional spacious houses built by industrialists and merchants and by the mid 19th century it was clearly no longer a village but had become part of the expanding urban borough of Sunderland, chartered in 1835. Larger houses with extensive semi-formal gardens contrasted with the elegant terraced houses of Crowtree Terrace and Borough Road, and the back-to-back houses of Carter Street and Crow Street.
In the early years of the 20th century the most dramatic changes to the architectural appearance of the area followed the construction of the fine and imposing late-Victorian and early- Edwardian buildings along High Street West opposite the Minster. Their size and flamboyant designs changed the sense of place from post rural and early suburban to urban centre.
The post WWII period saw the start of some of the most radical alterations to the area and its setting, with the demolition of housing in and surrounding the conservation area. By the end of 1973 all of the buildings in Little Gate, South Gate, Fenwick Street, Crow Street and the buildings to the north and east of the green had been demolished.
More information about the history of Bishopwearmouth can be found within the Conservation Area Management Plan published here