Sunderland History - Aspects of Monkwearmouth - Whytehead to Williamson - Mid 1500 Header

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  In the mid 1500's, Lord Thomas Whytehead acquired the former lands of St Peter's monastery.  The estate passed to Robert Widdrington on September 16th 1597, and was secured in 1642 by Colonel George Fenwick, who bequeathed the estates to his daughter Dorothy.  She married the 2nd Baronet Sir Thomas Williamson of East Markham in Nottinghamshire to become Dame Dorothy Williamson. 

The Williamson Royalist lineage can be traced back to c.1450.  The family bought Whitburn Hall  - built in the mid-1500's reputedly by the Rector of Whitburn, Leonard Pilkington - and began structural renovations and extensions in 1719.  In 1735 on completion of the work, the family moved in.  At a cost of £2,200, additional alterations were concluded in 1832 to plans by Tyneside architect John Dobson, who designed further changes in 1856. 

The Hall was demolished in the later 20th century, and flats now cover the site. The 5th Baronet Sir Hedworth Williamson successfully trained racehorses on the nearby Whitburn sands, winning the Newcastle Cup with Stripling in 1799, and having 18 wins with Walton in the same year.  Winning the Epsom Derby, the Claret and the Craven Stakes with Ditto in 1803, he succeeded in the 1808 Derby with Pan, a 25-1 outsider who won a further 12 races.  The stud was sold in 1810. 

During his visits to Whitburn Hall, writer Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) wrote the nonsense poem Jabberwocky, and was inspired by Williamson's grand-daughter to write the book Alice in Wonderland.   A tenet that Carrol was motivated to write the follow-up story ‘Through the looking glass' by the Wear's countless ships' carpenters and Sunderland Museum's stuffed walrus, was for a time regarded as inaccurate as the book was published in 1871, some three years before the museum's acquisition of the walrus.  However, prior to its public display, the walrus had been stored for some years in a room at Williamson's Roundhouse on the North Dock, where Carroll could have observed it during his period as Collector of Customs for the port.

      The 6th Baronet (1751-1810), married Mary Brandling, daughter of the flourishing Tyneside coal-owning family. Their influence is still evident on Wearside and Tyneside, where their name is borne by a number of pubs and 12 streets, including Monkwearmouth's Brandling Street.  The 7th Baronet, also Sir Hedworth (1797-1861) married Lady Anne Elizabeth Liddell on April 18th 1826 at the family's London home.  The tenants of the Williamson estates celebrated with social gatherings at the Grapes public house in Lower Dundas Street, the Monkwearmouth Inn (Oak Tree) in North Bridge Street, and at smaller get-togethers around Monkwearmouth and Whitburn.

From the mid 17th to 19th centuries, successive Williamsons were High Sheriffs of County Durham, while the 7th Baronet was Liberal MP for the County in 1831-2 and 1835, and Mayor of Sunderland in 1841/2/7.  Lady Anne Williamson was the eldest daughter of coal owner Thomas Henry Liddell - Lord Ravensworth. Liddell's family name is perpetuated by seven north-east streets, while his official name of Ravensworth is carried by a further 18 streets and several pubs. In Monkwearmouth, Liddell Terrace and Liddell Street were both levelled in the late 1950's, whilst Ravensworth Terrace in Gladstone Street, was demolished in the early 1970's.  [The Ravensworth properties were replaced with a new garage and travel centre for Carney's Coaches, a property currently occupied by the gym, Fitness 2000].

Brian Dodds Aspects of Monkwearmouth

The Wearmouth Dock Company

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