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Daily Feature

FAMILY AFFAIR: The Robinsons – a well known footballing family from Thorney Close – pose for a photo in August 1968.
FAMILY AFFAIR: The Robinsons – a well known footballing family from Thorney Close – pose for a photo in August 1968.

Diamond date for Thorney Close
THORNEY Close is this year celebrating its 60th anniversary. SARAH STONER today takes a closer look at the housing estate.
THOUSANDS of houses were built on the green fields surrounding Sunderland during the post-war slum clearances of the 1940s and 50s.
From Pennywell to Thorney Close and Farringdon, the picturesque countryside was ploughed up to make way for modern council homes.
Inside toilets and baths with hot running water were considered the ultimate in luxury for those lucky enough to secure one of the houses.
Indeed, such was the popularity of Thorney Close that the population virtually doubled, from 7,702 to 13,969, between 1951 and 1971.
Work on preparing fields next to Durham Road for the new estate began in 1947, and the first 77 aluminium houses were built in 1948.
Just two years later, however, axe-weilding yobs were stirring up trouble for the new residents, chopping down trees, shrubs and hedges.
Despite these teething problems, the majority of people flocking from cramped tenements to Thorney Close enjoyed a happy new life.
And now the birth of the close-knit community is to be celebrated in a diamond jubilee exhibition at the community centre in August.
Exhibition organiser Bill Hawkins, who moved from South Hylton to the estate in 1962, when he was nine, said:
"I'm passionate about local history and, as most local books only touch on the new estates, I decided to hold an exhibition instead.
"Thorney Close has got a history, just like everywhere else, and it will be a chance to bring back memories for people who have lived here."
The dates and times for the exhibition have yet to be finalised, but it is expected to be held around the end of August.
Mr Hawkins added: "The Thorney Close estate was, I suppose you could say, almost state-of-the-art when it was first built.
"People left back-to-back East End tenements, where they shared an outside toilet and had tin baths in front of the fire, to come here.
"There were some stories, though, about some who found 'moving to the country' just too difficult to adjust to and moved back again!"
An appeal for old photographs for the exhibition has now been launched by Bill, who is anxious to include as many as possible.
He concluded: "We want to show as many sides of Thorney Close as possible and I'm keen to see any old photos of the estate.
"The pictures will be handled carefully and will all be returned. It will be nice to see what kind of photographs people manage to dig up."
l Anyone willing to provide old photographs for the exhibition can contact Bill on 551 3947 or drop them in to Carol at Thorney Close Community Centre.



Former home of the influential
THE rolling fields of Thorney Close were once dominated by the grand manor house of Thorney Close Hall.
Many of Sunderland's most prominent and influential people made their home at the hall, including:
1700: George and Hannah Storey
1800: Rowland Burdon
1810: John White, father of the first Mayor of Sunderland. His politician son, Andrew, also lived in the house until the 1840s.
1846: Richard White, another Mayor of Sunderland
1847: Sold to Sunderland District Bank for £9,500 after Richard, a director of Bishopwearmouth Ironworks, suffered financial problems.
1856: Hepburn Thompson – manager of the District Bank
1939: Violet Bulkeley – a relation by marriage of Hepburn Thompson.
1953: Demolished after plans to turn it into a workingmen's club fell through.
05 January 2007
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