30 Years of the City of Sunderland

Today marks 30 years since Sunderland was granted City Status by Queen Elizabeth 2nd in 1992. So much has happened here in that time so I wanted to celebrate some of the biggest achievements and remember the worst times here on this post to mark the day.

There are a lot of pieces of history surrounding the club that I could go into, and that’s just from the last 5 years alone! But this post is about the city so I will mention only a few throughout. But here are the main stats: Since 1992 Sunderland AFC has had 32 managers, has been promoted 4 times, and relegated 5, and scored over 1500 goals!

Minster Park Sunderland

Now, lets get on with this post!

1992 – Sunderland University

The same year the town became a city, the polytechnic became a University. And while many people still couldn’t afford to go to uni, it has been a huge influence on my life and many people I know and for that, I am truly grateful.

1993 – The Pits Closed

The last coal mine in Sunderland to close was Monkwearmouth. on the 10th December in 93, the last workers left the mine never to go back. You can still visit this site today, except you will be forced to watch a game of football. The former pit filled and the land was used as the home of Sunderland’s new stadium a few years later.

1996 – Promoted to the Premier League

In 1996 Peter Reid took the team up and into the Premier League. Although this victory would be short-lived as they were relegated the following year, I’d have loved to have been there to see us get promoted!

The Stadium of Light, 2022

1997 – The Stadium of Light

In the July of 1997, the stadium of light was opened. Of course, when it first opened it was only 43’000 seats and wasn’t expanded until 2000 to include the premier concourse and take the capacity up to 49000. It is still in the top 10 largest stadiums in the country (even if the football is nowhere near that level!).

1998 – The National Glass Centre

For me, it is hard to think of Sunderland without its glass centre. However, at some point, there wasn’t one. It was opened in 1998 by Prince Charles as the first Arts Lottery funded building and the first majorly awarded arts funding centre in the North East. In 2010, the University of Sunderland took over the running of it.

1999 – Vaux Brewry Closed

Many will remember Vaux as a huge part of mackem life. Their beers were in every pub and everyone drank it. That was until 1999 when the brewery in Sunderland closed, and the year after Vaux itself went under.

I was too young at the time to remember what was on that site, but I remember it being a wasteland for what has been the majority of my life. In 2014 there was a company called in to redevelop it but after 4 years of contracts and no progress, that company went under in 2018. Other contractors ended up stepping in and in 2018, nearly 20 years after Vaux closed, The Beam office building opened up on that site.

2000 – Debenhams Opened

For many people, Debenhams was considered a staple in our city centre. and for 21 years it was. I worked there, on and off for 6 years and while my time there wasn’t the best, for the customers it was always seen to be the life and soul of Sunderland. I left before it closed down last year but the state I remember the store being in was a sorry one! I really hope that site gets bought out and someone does something with it so it isn’t empty like the Vaux site was.

The Winter Gardens

2001 – The Winter Gardens

Many may know that the original Winter Gardens was hit during WW2 and subsequently demolished. It wasn’t until sufficient funding was granted in 2001 to rebuild it. The Winter Gardens is a great asset to the city today!

2002 – The Metro

The Tyne and Wear metro first opened back in 1980, however it wasn’t until 2002 that it extended to include Sunderland as a destination. I remember going on it when it first opened. I was 5 years old and we got on at Park Lane and travelled to South Hylton and back. It is hard to believe that it was 20 years ago!

Bridges over the River Wear

2004 – A City Centre Cinema

I can remember when Sunderland didn’t have a cinema in the city centre. I remember going all the way to Boldon cinema to watch films! But when the Cineworld opened it was amazing. It really felt like the city was on the up!

With this development, we also got the bowling alley and sunniside car park which are both huge assets to the city.

2008 – The Aquatic Centre Opened

When the aquatic centre first opened it was the only Olympic sized swimming pool between Leeds and Glasgow and has some of the best facilities in the country! It’s hard to believe that this is now 14 years old.

2010 – Joplings Closed

I have very vague memories of Joplings, but what I do remember is the amazing toy area in the basement! Joplings was a huge department store in the city and was, like Debenhams was, a big part of the city.

2011 – The Leisure Centre Closed

I learned to swim in Crowtree Leisure Centre, as many did. But in the October of 2011 it closed to the public. It wasn’t until 2013 that the empty building was knocked down and the empty site has remained that way ever since – a green field in the middle of the city.

2012 – The New Primark

It is hard to imagine Primark Sunderland to be anywhere other than where it is now. However, it used to be over on Fawcett Street, where flannels are now. And the exit of the bridges was once a dingy corner that had no real shops of note. The whole area has been completely transformed and I really struggle now to think of what it used to look like!

Keel Square

2015 – Keel Square

Upon its completion many complained that the council had just spent 11million on some block paving on the edge of the city, myself included. However, with the ongoing developments on the square and on the Vaux Site, it is looking like the vision is coming together. I do see a day soon when that space is an asset to the city!

2016 – Sunderland is Brexit City

In 2016 the referendum happened and since Sunderland has a claim to fame over being the first city to declare its votes on an election, we were the first city to vote in favour of Brexit. By a huge margin of 61% which was higher than the average in the country. For many years after and even still, Sunderland is known as the Brexit city in the media.

Raich Carter Mural, painted on the Blue House by Frank Styles

2017 – Sunderland AFC Relegated from the Premier League

The club had been looking poor for a couple years before this, and it was obvious that we were going to go down a some point. But this season was a hard one to take. But if we’d know how bad things were going to get going forward I think I would have gave up supporting them here!

Of course, at the end of the 2017/18 season we were relegated again and dropped into league one where we have remained ever since.

The Northern Spire

2018 – The Northern Spire

Although most still call it the new bridge, The Northern Spire is an incredible piece of architecture that really marks the beginning of a new part of Sunderland. That entire riverside area will be incredible once complete and it will make the city even better!

2018 – The Beacon of Light

Another great addition to the city in 2018, the Beacon of Light. This education and sporting facility is an amazing addition to the city.

2021 – City Hall

The new HQ for Sunderland City Council which has now fully replaced the old and very ugly one next to Mowbray Park opened in 2021. And although it cost a fortune to build, there is no denying that the new place looks great and is a great addition to the Vaux site.

Keel Square

2022 – Looking ahead

Throughout this post there have been some good and bad things. We have lost a lot of the big retailers in the city centre. There are a lot of empty spaces and places in need to revamping. But I want to look here at all the on going projects in the city.

Work has begun on the train station in the city centre. The south entrance is going to be demolished and rebuilt which is due to be complete in 2023.

As part of the Riverside project, the grade 2* listed sheepfolds building over near the stadium has been granted 2million to be transformed into a live music and outdoor venue with food and drink stalls.

There are finally plans to build on the Leisure Centre site and create a 10,000 seat music venue. Complete with hotel, food hall, restaurants and studios, if this goes ahead its going to be an incredible piece of Sunderland history, and something we need in this city.

Things are looking up in Sunderland, and in a few years it is going to be a completely different city. The council seem to know that the city centre has its problems and while the retail element is not getting any better, other investments are coming in and helping diversify our offering.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I have enjoyed writing it! It was so great to take a walk down nostalgia lane for this one. If you did enjoy it and want to see more posts like it then drop your email address in the box below to be notified of any and all my upcoming posts.

Stay Safe and Happy Adventuring

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