Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Garden, Burdon Rd,, Sunderland SR1 1PP, SR1 1PP – Visit Now
Built in the heart of Sunderland city centre, Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Garden tells the fantastic history of Sunderland from its earliest days. It opened in 1810 and has quite a lot of history itself. Starting at the beginning of the human story in Sunderland in the stone age, the ‘Secrets of the Past’ Gallery has archaeological finds from the lives of first farmers. From there, it advances through time, and Roman finds can be seen alongside the Anglo-Saxon history and the development of Sunderland into an industrial giant of coal, shipbuilding and the modern automobile industry. In fact, the first ever Nissan car to be produced in Sunderland is also in the museum alongside other exhibitions in the museum.
One of the most popular exhibitions is “Wallace the Lion”, who came to Sunderland in 1868. His stay in Sunderland was so popular that when he passed away, the museum chose to acquire and taxidermy his remains. He has a special place within the museum and even to this day brings large crowds and is more than happy to pose for photos. The museum has a collection of paintings by L.S. Lowry who resided in Sunderland and created several works depicting the coast and riverside of Sunderland with its ships and coal works. These are wonderful to look at as they give a view of the city by one of the ‘greats’ of working-class art.
Outside the museum, a large bronze statue of a walrus was unveiled in 2000 to remember an actual taxidermied walrus that used to reside within. Sadly, it has deteriorated and no longer exists. It is thought that it was this walrus that inspired Louis Carrol to write the short narrative poem ‘the Walrus and the Carpenter’ in Alice Through the Looking Glass. The revamp project was initially meant to have a carpenter alongside the walrus but ran out of funds, so the walrus stands alone.
The winter gardens themselves are a fantastic tropical experience with the added surprise of having models of dinosaurs within them, great fun for younger visitors. The warmth can be appreciated in the depth of winter, especially in a region not famous for its hot weather.