A History of Phoenix Hall (Part II)

February 19, 2019

The East End

Series courtesy of Colin Meddes, Susan King and Elizabeth Allison

Signposted today as "Old Sunderland," the surrounding environs of the hall were once the centre of the city's shipbuilding and coal mining exports but alas, currently lie semi-derelict, awaiting a development plan to restore them to their former glory. To the people how live and have lived in the area it was always known as the "East End" and this name is now being used for the many initiatives that are currently engaged in the regeneration of the area.

The East End, with its prominent river frontage and natural quayside, is where the original Township of Sunderland first evolved. This natural low-lying land was certainly inhabited during Mediaeval times and possibly during the Bronze Age. Artefacts from this and the Roman period have been discovered within a mile or so of the area. The regeneration of this historically important location started a few years ago with the pedestrianisation of the river frontage and the restoration of the Exchange Building and theEagle Tavern (Fairgreave's bakelite works).

Whilst this work was underway, the City Council announced a major long-term regeneration place of the area.The Hall is, without doubt, of historical importance to the East End and Sunderland. It was felt, therefore, that the Hall should make, in its own small way, a contribution to this work and become once again part of the proud communication from which is has, unfortunately, steadily grown apart.

The road layout of the East End has changed little since 1785. Running parallel with the river, Low Street and High Street have always formed the commercial part of the town. Here were the hotels, chandlers, rope and sail makers, indeed, all the facilities required by ships and shipping.

Extending south off High Street ran rows of narrow, cobbled streets with open drains down the centre. Two- or three-storey timber framed houses on either side and with the upper storeys overhanging the ground floor, the streets were reminiscent of the works of Hogarth.

On the corner of High Street and Queen Street was the Golden Lion Hotel. This was the major coaching inn for Sunderland for many years and a celebrated place for banquets, meetings and festivities being patronised by the local gentry such as the Tempests and the Londonderrys.

Stretching up Queen Street were the extensive stables required by the hotel. At the south end of these was the hotel's bowling green, a small oasis of green in the centre of cobbled streets. The Golden Lion also has a malt kiln and a windmill.

Photo of authorJohn J.

A stalwart of the lodge - John joined Phoenix in 1972 - for nearly thirty years he served as Lodge Secretary (save when he has occupied the chair of Master, most recently in 2004). He is now an honorary member. His most recent promotion within the province was to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden. Considered a goldmine of masonic information, particularly with respect to our lodge, he recently assisted Historic England in the completion of their report into the historical significance of our beloved building. With what little spare time he has, John enjoys reading, research, and delivering lectures.

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