A Brief History of South Hylton
There can be little doubt that the banks of the Wear have been inhabited from earlier times because a “dugout” canoe believed to be about 4000 years old was found on the river bed in 1855. Unfortunately nothing much is heard of any local population until the Hilton family became established in the manor on the north bank of the Wear from 1157 when Romanus of Hylton held the title. It must be said though, that it is recorded that this family was at that time described as “being long established” which probably means that Romanus was not the first of the line.
It is with this family of Hilton that the fortunes of South Hylton are bound until the estates were sold off about 1750.
The name “South Hylton” is a relatively recent coinage, not coming into regular use until the late 18th to early 19th century. Prior to this the place had been better known as Low Ford or Hylton Ferry.
The Manor of Ford in which it was situated was part of the Hilton Castle estates from earliest times. Later the Parish of Ford was established as part of Sunderland Rural District and South Hylton was part of this. The old name of Ford was preserved in the name of the local school until the early 1950’s and in the parish name until 1967 when the Borough of Sunderland took over from Durham County Council.
It is worth noting that from the opening in 1853, the Railway Station was always known as “HYLTON” as was the local Telephone Exchange and Post Office.
Local inhabitants always maintained that South Hylton was different from anywhere else and in some respects this was true, for it was never a typical English Village nor was it ever a mining village. From the early 1700’s it was an extremely diversified Industrial Village – a product of Industrial Revolution. Before this time it was merely a collection of farmsteads in a very rural economy. The change is reflected in the population figures which were about 600 at the beginning of the 19th century and over 3000 by the end of it!
In spite of its close proximity to Sunderland, South Hylton retained its individuality partly because of its isolated position; there was never a “Through Road” although a ford had crossed the Wear from a very early date, followed by a ferry from at least 1435. Another reason for the villages unique character was the fact that it was a very “closed” community, with large numbers of the population being interrelated.
South Hylton was, during the 19th and early 20th centuries a very busy place with a whole range of industries including: Forges, Foundries, Rolling Mill, Cement Works, Paper Mill, Copperas Works, Sawmills, Shipyards and, of course, Dawson’s Pottery. It even had its own Gaslight and Coke Company.