The Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens is perfect for rainy days with the variety of attractions from four floors of interactive displays about the city’s history from its early foundations to the present day.
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In the museum is the largest collection of Sunderland pottery in the world. A highlight of the collection is a large pink lustreware jug dating from 1846. It was made locally at the Seaham Pottery. In addition to learning how it was made you can find out what it was like to work in the factory. Also interesting is the Londonderry Glass Service (1818-1824). The Wear Flint Glass Company in Sunderland made it for the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry. More glass can be seen in the pieces of Anglo-Saxon coloured glass from the monastery windows of St Peter’s (AD 674). They are some of England’s earliest window glass. Another display shows pieces from the 200 years of glass making in the area.
The coal miners and their families in the area had a hard life, depicted in a section on the former coal industry of the area. An unusual attraction here is a giant lump of coal weighing .5 ton. Another, local industry, ship building, has its own section to tell its story.
A wider ranging exhibition depicts life of various areas of the world while Lost Worlds tells of Sunderland’s geology. Anglo-Saxon artefacts from St Peter’s monastery (home of the Venerable Bede) are on view.
The building is also home to an exhibition of paintings by LS Lowry. He often stayed in Sunderland and used it for art inspiration. Contemporary crafts reflect the textile traditions of the past with their quilts, rag rugs and embroideries. A pre-historic section details live in the distant past. 20th century Sunderland is presented in an AV program. Special exhibitions come from throughout the country. There are special events and activities that are appropriate for all ages.
The Winter Garden, part of the site, was rebuilt where Victorian glass houses once stood. It now houses a small tropical rainforest in a stainless steel and glass rotunda. There are 2000 flowers and plants to enjoy as well as a high walkway giving a real birds-eye view of the lush foliage canopy, complete with a 30 foot polished steel water feature. Growing in the garden are tree ferns, cycads, giant horsetails, Michella figors, tea, coffee, sugar, citrus fruits, date palms, bananas, pineapple, mango, the vanilla orchid, gingers, and medicinal plants. A Wollemia pine, one of the world’ rarest plants, inhabits the garden. It is from Australia.
Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens
Burdon Rd, Sunderland, SR1 1PP
Tel. 0191 553 2323
Open: Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm; Sun, noon-4pm
Café, small shop; disabled friendly; use town parking
Photos of Winter Garden © by Barbara Ballard
Two photos of museum exterior by Martin Routledge courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland
Regrettably the museum does not allow interior photos.