With several museums that are the envy of the nation – and amongst the busiest in the country as well – Sunderland’s rich history is brought to life with everything from its glass-making heritage to its part in the industrial revolution.
With a glass-making heritage dating back to AD 674 when the city’s patron saint Benedict Biscop imported the first French glaziers to the region, Sunderland has had a rich glass-making history. Global companies like Pyrex and Hartley Woods have helped shape the city’s industrial landscape, so it was only natural that the National Glass Centre would be based here. Open daily and with free entry, you can watch live demonstrations from glass blowers, glass lathes and flame workers as well as getting hands on and making your own glassware. With a stunning 3,000 square metres of glass covering its exterior, you can even walk on its 6cm thick glass roof. The National Glass Centre, which is actually part of the University of Sunderland, is located near the coast and just a couple of miles from our Sunderland North West hotel.
Equally impressive – and free entry again – is the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, home to the first Nissan car to roll out of the city’s factory as well as an extensive gallery dedicated to another famous Sunderland industry, shipbuilding. Alongside that, you can take a tour of some Anglo-Saxon artefacts, stop and take a selfie with Wallace The Lion, one of the museum’s most famous attractions. Or alternatively, take a stroll through the Winter Gardens, home to over 2,000 plant species replete with a tree-top walkway and stunning glass rotunda.
If guns, tanks and bombers are more your scene, you’ll love the North East Land, Sea and Air Museum which houses an extensive collection of RAF aircraft and aero engines as well as a dedicated collection of military vehicles, guns and weaponry and a recreated street scene depicting life during World War Two. Located several miles inland from Sunderland, it’s a seven-minute drive from our A19/A1231 hotel.
Housed in a Grade II Listed building, Ryhope Engines Museum was an operational pumping station for over 100 years before it was turned into a museum housing two Victorian-era beam engines which, impressively, are still in full working order. Weighing in at nearly 40 tons including the flywheel, they’re seriously impressive pieces of machinery and are a delight to see in action. The museum also contains several steam engines and pumps, and a viewing platform overlooking the 250-foot deep shaft – not one for those scared of heights!
If trains and tracks get you gripping your notepad in a frenzy, then head to Monkwearmouth Station Museum. A small, specialist museum dedicated to its train heritage, the Grade II Listed building was built in 1848 and is a stunning example of the period’s architecture featuring plenty of memorabilia and exhibits to interest train junkies. Located between St. Peter’s Metro station and the Stadium of Light, there’s a café nearby and plenty of picnic benches, making it a good lunchtime stop-off.
Rounding out our selection of museums is the Donnison Heritage, Education and Media Centre, found in Sunderland’s East End. Dating back to the 17th century, the school offers a fascinating look at education, schooling and children from centuries ago – a stark contrast to today’s iPad generation. With a wide range of kids’ activities, a vintage classroom and wartime garden, it’s a fascinating take on living history and well worth the one-mile trip from our City Centre hotel.
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