THE MAPS OF SUNDERLAND,
1693 - 1900.
By the late A. W. WESTON.
(Read 11th March, 1941).

(The word “Sunderland” as used in the title of this paper refers to the present Borough—Editor.) [Vol XX, 1932-1943, pp116-128]

The purpose of this paper is not to give an exhaustive treatise on each map issued, but more to outline the areas dealt with and to show their value as historical records. Maps are the groundwork of history and the starting point of much antiquarian research, so that endeavour has been made here to complete more a reference list than an elaborate study of each map.

Sunderland, as compared with many neighbouring towns and villages, is very poorly represented in cartography. There seem to be no large scale maps of areas within or just outside the present borough until the end of the 17th century. There doubtless must have been many maps, plans and charts of an earlier date than this, but at the present time no earlier work than 1693 has survived. It may well be that sometime in the future some of these may be resurrected from their dusty hiding places to show us exactly how Sunderland stood in its early days. For any aspect of our town before the beginning of the 18th Century we must turn to the small scale County maps, which are, however, quite interesting in regard to local history. The earliest County map known is that supposed to have belonged to Lord Burleigh and to have been compiled about 1567-70. Sunderland is not shown as such, but we have Monkwearmouth and Wearmouth. From that time onwards the County maps continued to be executed in an ever-increasing quantity. One of their chief points of interest is the diversity of the spelling of local place-names. To emphasise this, it is only necessary to say that Monkwearmouth has fifteen variations in spelling, Bishopwearmouth nine, Southwick seven, with Sunderland and Fulwell having two each.


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Other details from these maps can best be taken as they occur. Christopher Saxton’s map of Durham 1576 (the earliest engraved map of the County) shows “Warren Point” on the N.E. corner of the old “Coney Warren,” and the estate of Barnes. This latter estate is shown in most maps from this date, but is oniy shown differentiated into High and Low Barnes iu 1805. Ogilby’s strip map of 1675 shows “Barns” alongside two immense mushrooms representing Tunstall Hills. The Custom House is shown in 1763 and onwards, Roker as “ Roca” or “ Rocas Point” in 1805, 1827 and 1834, with Hole or Bole Point near it on the Fulwell side with “cannon” indicated in Cary’s map of 1827. The earliest marking for the Ferry is 1675.

Quite a few of the surrounding estates are emphasised, such as Barley Mow in 1800, with Blue House (Blew House), Hunter’s Hall, Thornhill, Rock Lodge, Rowland House, Bainbridge Holme, Ettrick Hall, Elstob, and Hendon Grange, but as one can expect nothing of importance can be inferred as the scale is too minute.

Turning now to the larger scale maps, the first we can find is the chart of the Wear by Greenville Collins on Plate 50 of his “ Great Britain’s Coasting Pilot, Being a new and Exact Survey of the Sea Coast.” This was published in 1693. On a large sheet there are four maps, the first of the Wear and Sunderland, the second of the Tyne to Newcastle and the last two of Seaton Sluice and Blyth Harbour, showing a continuous stretch of the coast from Sunderland to Blyth.

We need only concern ourselves with the first of these where the outline of the coast is given from about one mile south of Sunder- land to a point north of Marsden. Whilst the map would be quite suitable for the rough navigation of the time it does not give very much information regarding the state of the town. A series of profile views of the houses is shown marked “Sunderland Towne” with “Monkwormouth” indicated only by a church as is “Bishopwormouth.” The name of Sir Thomas Williamson is printed on the North side with “Shippardson’s Key” farther east, and “Mr Ettick’s seat of Barnes” on the South side. The Custom’s house and Warren Point are named.

Of the river itself we have the navigable passage shown with the soundings at high and low water on “Spring-Tyds.” “The Barr” according to the map had a depth of l2ft at high tide with only 2ft at low water, but a little further up the river the high tide mark is lift with only 1 foot at low water. Once past the bar,
the “Lady Hole” approximately where the bridge now stands, had a greater depth of water, there being 9 feet at low water. The soundings are given outside the mouth of the river and an anchor indicating safe anchorage. Another quay is shown near the old cobble landing. The word “stel” is marked near two beacons on the sands, the rocks being shown by crosses.

This chart is principally of interest as being tle first survey of the Wear now existing and, though the scale is small (1 mile equivalent to 1”), it is well worth studying. The dedication on the map is “To the Worship’l the Master and the Rest of the Gentlemen, Brethren of Trinity House, Newcastle uppon Tyne, This Draught is humbly Presented and Dedicated by Capt. G. Collins. Hydror to the King.”

Reviewing the maps from 1693 onwards the next in chronological order is William Lewin’s map of 1714 entitled “An Exact Survey of the Manor of Monkwearmouth being Part of the Possessions of Sir Wm. Williamson Bart. Made by William Lewin in May Seventeen hundred and fourteen.” Of this William Lewin we know nothing, and we have only one more example of his work of which a description is given immediately after this map of 1714. Lewin’s chief effort in the cartographical line was his delightfully ornate map of the Ettrickes estate in Silksworth. In the survey of Monkwearmouth quoted above, the district east of present North Bridge Street beyond St Peter’s is drawn. The church is shown in profile as are the houses and mills on the estate, this being a favorite method of cartographers up to 1800. The names of fields and their tenants are also given along with the coat of arms of the Williamson family. A copy of this map is in the possession of the Society. The scale is particularly large being approximately 3 chains to the inch and the size of the whole 27” by 35.”

Lewin’s second effort concerns the “New Town Scheme” of 1715 and covers the Town Moor to the church (then only projected). The title on it is “A Scheme of the New Town of Sunderland beginning at the East end of the Town and continued to the Chapel Hill taken Divided and cut into 12 equal parts each part containing 403 square yards besides the Banks which are also divided and set out as agreed unto by the 12 gentlemen to whom the said belongeth with the Gentlemen’s names and number of references to each Gentleman’s parcel of Town and Bank as fell by Lot. Wm. Lewin . . . Finished and given in the 27th of June 1715.” This map was made for the 12 freemen who appropriated land from the Town Moor, which was Bishop’s Land, and partitioned it among themselves. Several, however, withdrew from this shady transaction.

Although this plan offers no clue to the existing town of Sunderland, it is of interest in that it gives the names of the freemen, a drawing of the projected church and the names of streets to be laid out on the purloined land. These streets were to be named Fishers Street, Chapel Street, Bank Street and Old Wife’s Lane.

Four years later James Fawcett (appointed the first engineer in the employment of the River Wear Commissioners in 1717) prepared a map which is the frontispiece of Summers” History and Antiquities of Sunderland.” This map of 1719 is mainly concerned with the river mouth and its sandbanks. The Stell canch and the Ham Sand with numerous smaller sandbanks then almost blocked the river leaving only the two narrow openings called the Stedway and the Stell. St Peter’s church is shown bounded on the south by Williamson’s Ballast hills, and the Custom House is given. “Dame Dolly’s Rock” or “Dame Dorothy’s Rock” on the north side of the river takes its name from the wife of one of the Williamson family. It may e mentioned that it was from there that the sailors wives used to bid farewell to their husbands as they sailed out of the port and that the distance from the rock to the navigable channel allowed them to throw across their parting gifts. The scale gives 7201t to each inch. Of Fawcett the records show that he was paid the magnificent sum of 2s. 7d.  for having laid out land in the burial ground with the aid of another person.

The year 1737 has given us one of the most important surveys of our town. As an historic document Burleigh and Thompson’s map of Sunderland and the townships on the Wear cannot be surpassed. There are three editions of this remarkable plan prepared for the Commissioners. Which one came first, whether one is the original sketch of the survey or a later copy, is a very debatable point. However, all contain almost the same information so that such controversy is only of academic interest. The whole survey in four large sheets extends from the mouth of the river to Newbridge including all the townships on the banks on a scale of 600ft. to the inch. The title is in two parts, the first being “A plan of the Mouth of the River Wear, Harbour and Port of the Town of Sunderland and Towns Adjacent” and the second “A Plan of the River Wear from Newbridge to Sunderland Barr as it Appeared at Low Water, By Burleigh and Thompson 1737.” The imprint is “M. Burleigh delin and “John Tinney sculpsit.” An adequate description of this map would require a paper to itself so that all reference to it is necessarily sketchy. It is our earliest representation of Sunderland as it was more than 200 years ago. Much information is printed in the margins besides showing every block of houses and road. The name and the extent of holdings is given of every landowner along the river together with the sandbanks, houses, quays, ballast hills, ferries, in fact ever(y)thing that would be outstanding at the time of the survey. To quote a few items from the notes on the plan may give a better idea of the work.. . of sands and stones, etc., in the river we have Long Ratch, Boild and Roast Ratch, Meggs Hole, Tom Pott’s Rock and the Stodden and the Oyster Pitts. Coal and “cynder” staiths, glass houses, the heights of the tides in various parts of the river, are part of the mine of valuable information to be found in the map.

With this completely inadequate sketch we must leave this extraordinary plan to deal a little with the compilers, Mar Burleigh and  ------------  Thompson. Of the second we can find no information (he was probably the surveyor) but fortunately Mark Burleigh was well known in the town. He (the latter) was a wealthy Quaker, a wine merchant and a brick maker, who built the house for himself later occupied by William Fawcett. Burleigh had property all over Sunderland and Burleigh Street was named after him. He was an artist in his spare time and it is said a very good one. If indeed we can judge from the engraving of the above maps (which was probably his work) we can confirm this.

In 1742 Thomas Forster produced “A survey of Sunderland Moor” on the scale of 3 chns. to an inch. There are two copies of this differing in scale and slightly in detail. These maps show only the town moor with very little detail of the town itself. The moor proper with the “ Coney Warren “ next to it are the main parts, but the entrances to Silver Street, Church Lane and High Street are marked together with Love Lane and Sandywell Bank. The Church (together with a few houses) is depicted in profile, but these are situated around the moor. The Intack (the intake from free lands) next to the church has a rope-walk on it. The famous Spaw Well (now in the middle of Hendon dock) was almost in the middle of the moor while Lowther’s Hall (now in the North Sea) stood on the cliffs. This latter was at one time a notorious inn, a rendezvous point for highwaymen and robbers.

T. Mill in 1746 surveyed the estates in Pallion and produced a delightful map entitled “A Plan of Pallion nigh Sunderland in ye County of Durham by T. Mill 1746.” This lovely plan, with figures and cupids holding a cartouche, and a woman holding a pair of dividors over a coloured direction indicator, bears the stamp of earlier 16th Century work. As usual we have the houses in profile and more interesting a South and East view of the hail is given. The names of the fields with the acreages appear on the map. The only other points worthy of note are the ballast hills and the Intack from free land near the river’s edge.
Southwick also had its first survey, apart from Burleigh and Thompson’s, in 1746 when William Donkin’s map entitled “A plan of lands lying at Southwick in the County Palatine of Durham, belonging to George Grey Esq. taken by William Donkin 1746” was begun. The George Grey referred to had his manor house on the Green at Southwick, which went by the name of Southwick Hall. Not only Grey’s estates are shown, but the tenants also of his lands and the lands of his neighbours. The names of various fields are of especial note and would make an absorbing subject for study.

Richard Hornsby, supposed to have been the Captain Richard Hornsby who fought the famous action against the French privateer, in 1746, was the author of a map of Fulwell. The full title is “A Survey and Plan of Land at Fullwell in the County of Durham Bellonging to Mr John Gibson and Mrs Alice Young. Taken in October 1746 by Richard Hornsby.” “Orchard Gardens” is given as the main residence there and the land appears to be that to the East of the present Seaburn Station. Of field names taken at random from this map we have “The Hills,” “The Fens,” “Hinging Side,” “Ox Close,” and “Little and Great Pott Hole.” The scale of this map is 4 chns. to an inch.

The engineer of the River Wear Commission (Vincent by name) about 1750 surveyed the river mouth for his employers. The map in many respects is similar to Fawcett’s of 1719, except for the varying channel of the river and the addition of a short south pier. 

There are copies of two maps of the Town Moor and the Coney Warren very similar to Forster’s 1742 survey which were issued in 1750. The cartographer is unknown. These maps seem to have been issued for certain legal actions which arose out of disputes between the freemen of the town and the townsfolk regarding rights on the Moor. References at the bottom indicate broken fences and walls. Most of the places shown are in the 1742 plan, but there are certain additions and deletions. Lowther’s Hall and the Spaw Well seem to have vanished due doubtless to the inroads of the sea. Here we have the workhouse next to the church and the old Town Hall and Hospital on the west side of it, and further additions are the three ponds in the Moor, the Warren and the Intack with the streams leading in to them from the direction of the town. These would no doubt be open sewers from the town. The posts which marked the racecourse are numbered.

A map entitled “Bainbridge Holme Estate in the Parish of Bishopwearmouth in the County of Durham. Surveyed in August 1783 by John Bell” broke the gap in the next thirty years. This plan on a scale of 3 chns. to an inch has the field names together with the owners of the surrounding estates.

In 1785 John Rain began his delightful “Eye Plan” or bird’s eye view of Sunderland and Bishopwearmouth taken from the south. The survey (started at the Bishopwearmouth end in this year) was finished in 1790. This John Rain (spelt Raine in another map) was the son of John and Mary Rain of Plains Farm and was born in 1760. Rain was a farmer, later a brickmaker and finally the Town Surveyor. That he was a trained land surveyor can be seen from his carefully drawn estate maps. Other work of his was the plan of Goodchild’s estate in Pallion and Williamson’s estates at Monkwearmouth. Rain had property in Crowtree Road and an entry in the church records shows that he had to repay a certain sum of money or proceedings would be taken against him. This extremely interesting map has all the streets and houses shown with details of owners of property. A section of the Bishopwearmouth part appeared in the Transactions of the Society, Vol. XIX, P.42, whilst the original is in the possession of Mr Robert Hyslop

A plan entitled “A Plan of an Estate lying in and near Fulwell the Property of Mr. Rob. Atkinson of Jarrow. Anno Dom. 1790, Robertus Emmerson, ludi magister. De Boldon Dunelm mensurant et Delinieant Anno Christi 1790,” is next in chronological order. This Emmerson was the son of the famous mathematician and was a schoolmaster in Boldon in 1777 according to the parish records. It was he who constructed the sundial erected on the church there, and also a peculiar 9-sided one (involving intricate mathematical knowledge) in Boldon Hall grounds. This detailed map gives the ownership and names of fields lying around Atkinson’s lands and is on a scale of 4 chns. to 1 inch. This same estate was surveyed later in 1792 by Emmerson(?) and shows the mansion House (near the present Seaburn Station) and the road through Fulwell to Whitburn. Among interesting field names there are “East Stobby Field” and “West, Middle and East Helm Piece.”

As has already been stated John Rain drew up a plan in 1793 of the Pallion estate belonging to William Goodchild. This is a wonderfully drawn map strongly reminiscent of Lewin’s work. The fields even show details of hedges and small ponds with the acreage of each. Amusing sketches of ships appear on the river, and the houses and farms appear in profile. The arms of the Goodchild family are blazoned on the sheet.

John Bell, who surveyed the Bainbridge Holme estate in 1783 drew up a plan of the Reverend John Fawcett’s estate in 1796. This was about the time the road was planned to the bridge.

This plan completes the list of known maps and plans of the present Borough of Sunderland up to the end of the 18th century. From then onwards with the craze for the building of bridges and harbours and later the astonishing rise of the railways, map making became a serious affair. They became highly technical and models of reliability and accuracy. It is to be regretted that those artistic and decorative qualities which so delighted the eye in the older plans and maps began to be entirely omitted. However, the 19th century saw a great increase in the number of local survey’s, and many interesting and historically valuable works can be counted among them. It is only intended to deal with the most important of these, but a complete list of known maps appears at the end of this paper, detailing scale and size, area dealt with and author.  

From 1800 onwards, under the orders of the River Wear Commissioners, many plans of the River and the Harbour were drawn up. Jonathan Pickernell about this time surveyed the river mouth and his plan shows the improvements effected there since 1750. It was he who built the lighthouse on the old north pier which was later removed by J. Murray. This pier (begun in 1788) was then surrounded by a grass bent; Dame Dorothy’s rock had then been removed and a fort and a few houses appear on the Moor and Coney Warren.

At this period we find John Bell in charge of many estate surveys (including a fine map of Ryhope, Hyiton Bridge, etc). His plan of Ayres Quay Glasshouses was completed in 1801, and has many points of interest, the chief being that the landowners’ names are detailed and the glasshouses shown together with the Patent Ropery. The Southwick glass works were surveyed in 1808 by M. Anderson on the estate of Mr Brunton whose house on the Green is now a tenement. A similar map to this was completed in 1813 by Wm Fryer. This shows Southwick village and the lands belonging to John Stafford Abbs.

A fine large scale work entitled “ A Plan of Monkwearmouth Shore with the Quays, Yards, Landings, etc. the Property of the late Sir H. Williamson Bar. Surveyed in 1811 by John Rain,” was John Rain’s last known local map. A very large map, (copies are held in the Manor Office and in the society's archives), it is 68” x 38”, and shows all the details of the district. The church is shown in profile and on the farm next to it are drawings of agricultural implements and farm carts. All the property and houses are given with the various roperies.

1817 saw the publishing of F. Bulmer’s plan of Low Pallion Estate, and Garbutt’s and Robson’s plan of Sunderland, Bishopwearmouth and Monkwearmouth This latter was given as a frontispiece to Garbutt’s History of Sunderland. Garbutt was a printer and stationer. He built a ship, lost it and was sent to jail for debt, but later he was made Librarian to Sunderland Subscription Library. Thomas Robson, who came from Morpeth, was a printer and engraver and also a surveyor. He came to Sunderland in 1808, and among much good work his three volumes on Heraldry are outstanding. The business was later carried on under the name of T. Robson and Sons. The gradual joining up of the townships of Sunderland and Bishopwearmouth by the building on the High Street is clearly indicated although the Pann Field is still there with other open fields from High Street southwards. A front view of the Exchange in High Street is engraved on the bottom of the sheet. Other work by Robson (or by Robson and Sons) includes an 1821 plan of the towns of Monkwearmouth and Monkwearmouth Shore—a very good map of land north of the river from the Wheatsheaf Corner to the mouth of the river; a plan of the harbour with Sunderland, Bishopwearmouth and Monkwearmouth in 1827; a similar one in 1831; another dedicated to the Mayor of Sunderland in 1844; an estate plan of Edward Aiskell’s estate in Hylton Road in 1846, with a plan of 1850 of the docks and part of Sunderland.

John Rennie, afterwards Sir John, by the Act of 59th Geo. III was nominated to survey the Wear for the Parliamentary Quay Line. This he began in 1819 and the work was completed by his Sons after his death in 1821. These sons, George and John Rennie, were appointed as engineers to the Lord High Admiral of Great Britain in 1822. The whole work is a monumental undertaking, very finely drawn and includes all the river from the mouth to Chester-le-Street. Many of the plans and charts prepared for the New Quay Line Commission in 1853 by Thomas Meik were taken direct from this.

1824 is the date of a plan of two estates surveyed by an unknown cartographer for Thomas Rudd—the Squire Rudd who lived in Redby House. In 1826 two more nameless surveyors drew up plans; one for Southwick, and the second of Sunderland, Bishopwearmouth and Monkwearmouth.

1830 saw a more ambitious attempt at map making when Robert Robson, Junior of Ryhope, drew up his “Plan of the Parishes of Bishopwearmouth and Sunderland in the County of Durham by a Topographical Survey.” This was published in the following year. Robert Robson was not related to Thomas Robson and the only Robert Robsons listed in the directories of the time are the victualler of the Ship Inn, Ryhope, and a farmer. A large amount of detail is given in this map, showing the lands aid holdings to the south of the river. A drawing of the old bridge is engraved in the top left hand corner. The scale is 300 yds to the inch.

A plan of Monkwearmouth Church with a water course through the church yard, issued in 1832, is of interest. 

A smaller scale map was issued about 1835 for Sunderland Municipal Corporation Act (probably by the Boundary Commissioners) after the Bill on the Report of the proposed divisions of Counties. This was carried out by Robert K. Dawson, a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. Among other things the old boundaries of the town are shown with the proposed extensions. There are two copies of this work, differing only in size.

John Hughes surveyed the Sunniside estate belonging to Thomas Thompson in 1836. The same estate was surveyed again in 1848 by T. Moore when R. T. Wilkinson resided there. This second map shows Foyle Street, Norfolk Street, Manor Place, Sunniside, High Street and the Shrubbery. In 1839 the Tithe Commissioners drew up many tithe maps showing land valuation, etc. Monkwearmouth and Southwick were surveyed for this. Between 1837 and 1840 over 300 of hese maps were issued for different areas in the County.
Thomas Bell drew up a plan of lands around Fulwell Mill in 1842. In 1843 Joseph Cook, a coal dealer, drew up a rather ambitious scheme for enclosing the channel of the river and forming an enclosed floating dock and tidal basin. This map showing every house or block of houses with the names of shipbuilding yards was prepared by Thomas Robson and Sons.

It was about this time that the engineers attached to the River Wear Commissioners began to plan the new docks, harbour entrances and the improvement of facilities in the river. Some of the more famous names are those of John Murray, Thomas Meik, Robert Stevenson, D. and T. Stevenson, Harrison and Morgan and I3ruiiel the younger. A colossal amount of work was turned out by Meik, including many proposed improvement schemes and most of the data for the “Sunderland Navigation Act New Quay Line Report in 1853.” This last Report makes very interesting reading. His first plan of the harbour was in 1849, followed in quick succession by plans in 1850, a plan of the town in 1851 in conjunction with Robert Morgan, and harbour schemes in 1852, seven more in 1853. two in 1854 and one in 1856, ending with plans for the Sunderland ferries in 1866. John Murray also was a prolific map maker of areas at the mouth of the river having three in 1850, two in 1854 and two in 1856. The firm of D. and T. Stevenson, civil engineers of Edinburgh, was called in for report and suggestions on improvements to the harbour and river, and their proposals. were set down in four maps in 1853 and 1858.

1845 saw the surveying of Elstob House Farm and Tunstall Farm estates. In the following year the railway plans for a line to Bishopwearmouth were handed in and from that time railway improvements figure largely among the new maps. Of estates surveyed up to 1850 from this time, there is Collins estate at South- wick (1846), a Ford estate plan of 1808, bottle and glass works in Bishopwearmouth in 1848, plans of the Mansion house and grounds at Bishopwearmouth, and Low Pallion and Deptford in the same year.
The reports of Superintending Inspectors of the General Board of Health dealing with Sunderland were issued in 1851 and the volume contains two maps, the first of the whole of the town and the second on a very large scale of part of the parish of Sunderland showing the streets and houses in Love Lane, Sailor’s Alley, Minorca, Robinson’s Lane, Anderson’s Stairs, Water Lane, Low Street and High Street. To quote all the interesting points brought out in this report, issued by Rawlinson, would be well worth while but space is lacking.
The Port of Sunderland was surveyed for the Admiralty Charts from 1838-48 and the whole issued by the Hydrographic Office in the following year. The survey, naturally of a highly technical nature, was carried out by E. Kiliwick Calver, Master R.N.

The first Ordnance Survey of the town was begun in 1855 on the 6” scale by Lieutenant O’Grady of the Royal Engineers. This was continued in 1858 and engraved in 1862. The 25” scale map was started in 1857, as was the 120” scale map, and a revision took place in 1897. On such a large scale as this, these maps cannot help but be of interest.

Of other maps issued up to 1900 we have a plan of the Diamond Hall estate in 1858, lands belonging to the Trustees of Bishopwearmouth Hospital in 1860, Alderman Williams’ proposed Town Improvement Scheme of 1866, a proposed street from the Ship Inn, Sans Street, to Prospect Row issued in 1866 by Vint and Carr of the Herald office, and some proposed streets by G. A. Middlemiss of 1866. There is nothing of outstanding interest after this.

The gradual changing face of the borough is immediately evident on looking through these plans and maps. We can trace its growth from the separate townships to its present day unity— we see the development of the harbour, the river and the railways, the passing of the old estates and the mushroom growth of our housing schemes. Multitudinous facts can be learnt from them, for they are the product of History themselves.

[Appendix – Chronological listing of extant maps – not reproduced]