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Tyne and Wear HER(4356): Sunderland, Town Moor - Details

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Sunderland, Town Moor



Agriculture and Subsistence

Land Use Site

Common Land



Documentary Evidence

The town moor is presumably Sunderland's common, and was apparently granted in Bishop Puiset's borough charter. Though its original extent is unknown, source 3 says that in 1718 it had been divided into 3 - Great Moor, North Moor and Intake, - three of its boundaries seem fairly clear, the River Wear (for the north), the sea (for the east), and Robinson's Dene (to the south). In addition to pasture, it had a multitude of uses - net drying, sports, preaching, and there are supposed to have been forts, batteries and brickpits on it. It was steadily reduced in size, through 18th and 19th centuries, by various encroachments - the sea, barracks (1794), railway sidings (1836), the docks (1850), streets, Hendon Lodge, Holy Trinity Church and the Gray National Schools. By Act of Parliament in 1853 the Freemen handed over their assets to the Trustees of an Orphan Asylum to be built on the Moor. Each of the 12 freemen occupying a house had commonage for 2 horses and 4 cows, and each of the 18 stallingers for 1 cow. McCombie (1997) mentions a number of features upon the moor, including ponds (subsequently infilled with ballast), boundary ditches and walls and buildings on its south-west edge, at Hendon Lodge. She also adds limestone and clay quarrying and rope-making to the list of activities carried out there. Shrove Tuesday football was played on the town moor. Two teams would fight for possession of a stuffed ball. In 1667 one such game resulted in the death of Richard Watson. The moor was also a regular venue for bull, badger and bear baiting in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sunderland's last recorded baiting took place in May 1822. It was banned by government statute in 1835. Horse racing took place on the town moor from 1724 until the 1740s. Other activities included cock fights and gambling. After the horse racing ceased, other sports took place - potshare bowling (a small bowl was hurled along a roped off course known as the mile), wrestling and archery. In the 19th century The Moor Cricket Club played on the town moor. They were driven onto the beach when the freemen wanted to graze their cattle. Despite the development of the Hudson Docks (1837-50) and the laying out of railway sidings on the eastern portion of the racecourse, large tracts of the moor and the former Coney Warren (name suggests rabbit farming) remain as open ground in-between modern housing and industry.




<< HER 4356 >> R. Surtees, 1816, History of ... Durham, I, 255 G. Garbutt, 1819, Sunderland, 144 W. C. Mitchell, 1919, History of Sunderland, 84-86 H. G. Bowling, ed. 1969,Some Chapters on the History of Sunderland, 50-51 T. Corfe, 1973, Sunderland, 82 G. E. Milburn & S. T. Miller, eds. 1988, Sunderland River Town and People, passim; Pearson, Lynn, 2010, Played in Tyne and Wear - Charting the heritage of people at play, pp 10-11, 73

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