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Sunderland, Sunderland Cottages






Early Modern


Extant Building

A distinctive form of low cost housing evolved in Sunderland during the industrial revolution. The Sunderland Cottage is now recognised as a rare, important and distinctive approach to solving the housing problem for the expanding urban population. The Sunderland Cottage is effectively 'a terraced bungalow'. They were first built for the skilled shipyard workers. The single-storey cottages provided privacy and social status. Each cottage has its own entrance and back yard. Many had gardens (Rosslyn Street is rare in having very long front gardens). They were built primarily between 1860 and 1910. Angela Long says they were built as early as 1840. The form developed from the County Durham pit row. Some cottage streets have larger houses at the end, which have been converted into shops. A Government Commission of 1845 described the earliest workers' housing in Sunderland as 'single-storey cottages, occupied by one or at most two families'. A typical Sunderland Cottage has a front door leading into a narrow passage or vestibule, known locally as the 'Sunderland doorcase'. One or two rooms are located at the front. At the rear are the kitchen and bedroom. A rear extension contains the washhouse and sometimes an additional bedroom. The frontages are narrow but the cottage runs a long way back. A typical cottage in St. Leonard Street had a living room 4.27m x 3.43m, a bedroom 3.66m x 2.06m and a kitchen 4.62m x 3.28m. The accomodation was of a similar size to a Tyneside flat, a two-up-two-down in Manchester or a back-to-back in Leeds. Coal sheds, ash pits and toilets were usually on the opposite side of the yard. The form of the Sunderland cottage changed little. In the first half of the 19th century the majority of cottages were broadly neo-classical in style, like other English terraced houses. By the 1860s Gothic motifs were introduced. Ridley Terrace in Hendon (HER 7170, listed grade 2) has Gothic arches around the doors. Paxton Terrace in Pallion and Scotland Street in Ryhope have bold polychrome brickwork. The most elaborately decorated houses are in Rosslyn Street, Millfield, where there are arches and foliate carving. Some cottages have round-headed arches. Bay windows, a status symbol, began to appear in the 1880s. The earliest Sunderland Cottages were built around Monkwearmouth Colliery and the shipyards. The Wearmouth Coal Company built cottages at South Hendon to designs by company architect H.E. Robinson. The 'Little Egypt' estate in Hendon, which included Cairo Street (1900), was served by a tram line running along Ryhope Road to Villette Road. Monkwearmouth Coal Company built Empress Street in 1880 to designs by J and T Tillman, architects for Sunderland Museum and Library. James Hartley and Co. built 80 cottages in Lily Street, May Street, Rose Street and Violet Street to designs by James Henderson. William and Thomas Ridley Milburn designed the 'ABC streets' in High Barnes (Abingdon, Barnard, Eastfield and Guisborough Streets) at the turn of the twentieth century as well as Kitchener Street, Nora Street, Hawarden Crescent, Queen's Crescent, Tanfield Street and Hampden Road. C.A. Clayton Green and Hugh Taylor Decimus Hedley designed the Church of St. Gabriel and the cottages in Grosvenor Street (1900-5) and Trinity Street (1903-7) in Art Nouveau style. But the majority of Sunderland Cottages were built by speculative builders. Mainsforth Terrace in Hendon was built by speculative builder J.C. Tone to designs by John Tillman. Substantial numbers of cottages were built into the 1920s and 30s when the government subsided local authority house building. The largest concentration of these later cottages are the 'Scottish streets' in Fulwell, designed by Joseph Potts and Son. Forfar Street was built in 1925, Inverness Street in 1923, Moray Street 1926-1933. The practice of altering cottages began as soon as they were built. Attics were converted into an extra bedroom. By the 1920s garages were built in the back yards. Man




Michael Andrew Johnson, 2010, The Sunderland Cottage: The Favourite and Typical Dwelling of the Skilled Mechanic, Vernacular Architecture, Vol 41, pp 59-74

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