This film is part of Free

Sunderland: Old and New

A look at the commercial district and shipyards that were once the beating heart of Sunderland.

Amateur film 1972 9 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


Shot with grainy charm by a disc jockey from Murton, this amateur film records Sunderland’s city centre after the start of modernisation in the 60s and 70s. Old streets are lost to a shopping precinct and tower blocks. A fire destroys Shares on Bridge Street, one of the older Jewish stores, which once proliferated in the commercial district. Demolished in 1971, the clock of the iconic Fawcett Street Town Hall sets the time on Wearside here as the older businesses cling on.

The shopping centre had changed little before the 1960s despite damage from the blitz, but the much derided ‘scorched earth’ policies of post-war council planners reached Sunderland in 1966, perhaps prompting this work by amateur filmmaker Bob Wrightson. His compilation also features a colourful 70s rag week parade, which passes the Jewish-owned Books Fashions. Moving back in time to the 1940s, murky, marked monochrome scenes feature trams advertising Binns department store on a flourishing Fawcett Street, and, once the bedrock of the city’s wealth, smoky shipyards and engineering works on the River Wear, including the Pallion shipyard of William Doxford and Sons.