Signs of Monkwearmouth's Past - Dixon's Square
Dixon (or Dixon's, or Dickson's) Square is a reminder of an older Monkwearmouth. It was laid out in a time when Monkwearmouth village was separated by open land from the church and monastery precincts and settlement at Monkwearmouth Shore. The square was built at the east end of what had been the village green of Monkwearmouth.
It sits sadly, almost derelict, in the centre of what's now a traffic gyratory system, off Church Street North and opposite Monkwearmouth library. But - it has survived, with remains of 18th-c cottages and industrial buildings. It gives a hint of the square's once-busy past.
We have found numerous references to Dixon in 17th- and 18th-century Monkwearmouth. Perhaps most interesting is an account in the Londonderry papers at Durham RO (D/Lo/F 250) describing property let after the bankruptcy in 1756 of Thomas Dixon, ship's carpenter and coal fitter (merchant). Dixon's house and garden were in the same location as Dixon's Square, and the deeds mention adjacent maltings or malthouses. The area was already well-developed, whether by Dixon himself is not certain.
Around 1800 it was known also as the Curtain, or Curtain Square, and was said to be 'the residence of many of the higher classes of society'. By 1900 it had turned into an area of working-class tenements. Some of our recent photographs attest to this varied past, and to the square's fall in the world.
From David Hoey :While following family research in 1891 I found a great-great-grandmother (and her sister) living in Dixon Square, Monkwearmouth, after a general search I found your pictures, which were interesting and so thought you would be equally interested in some of my findings. At http://www.historicaldirectories.org/hd/ (which is a never ending source of information) I found Peter Austin (1828-29) Shipowner and Gent and in 1850 J (John) Austin Shipowner and Brewer, by the census in 1881 Thomas Emmott appears to be employed as a master brewer with an assistant, the brewery is at No6 but as you go around the addresses the square appears to start and stop at the brewery and the Austin's have disappeared from the square but Eleanor Austin (who I think is the widow of Peter) and a couple of daughters are living in Pinfold (yard) square just along Thomas street to the right facing St Benet west side. It appears the Newcastle 'Blue star' wasn't the first. Thank you for a very interesting site and hope you keep up the good work....
Content generated during research for two paperback books 'Sunderland and its Origins: Monks to Mariners' (ISBN 13 : 9781860774799) and 'Sunderland: Building a City' (ISBN 13 : 978-1-86077-547-5 ) for the England's Past for Everyone series