Municipal Building, Sunderland

In July 1874[1], it was reported that having submitted a costed design for a competition for a proposed building municipal building to be erected in  Mowbray Park, Sunderland; his entry was “thrown out” for being significantly over the maximum acceptable cost:


THIS is one of the designs submitted in competition for a building proposed to be erected in the Mowbray Park, Sunderland, for use as municipal offices, public library, and museum. The principal entrance is in the centre of the Borough Road Front, leading through a large hall and lobbies into the library. This room is 110 ft. long by 30 wide; in connexion with this is a librarian’s room. On the first-floor over the library is the museum, with galleries; there is also a curator’s and store-rooms attached. The right wing contains the municipal offices, with separate entrances for the clerks, and over these on the second-floor are schools of arts and science. The left wing contains the councillors’ entrance, staircase, and the rooms for the use of the corporation, including a council chamber, 54 by 28 ft.; over the principal entrance, mayor’s parlour, committee-rooms, and town clerk’s offices. The site chosen was rectangular, having frontages of about 160 ft. each to the Mowbray Park and the Borough Road. The conditions restricted the cost to 20,000l. The guaranteed estimate was 21,560l.; it was therefore thrown out of the competition. The design is by Mr. Alfred W. N. Burder, architect.

It appears that the competition was a farce, as noted in the Victoria County History  account of Sunderland’s civic and public buildings, of which the following is an extract:-

The outcome of an architectural competition in 1874, which proposed a town hall on one of two possible sites in Mowbray Park, was an embarrassment. Two winners were announced, but the process was flawed as no assessor had been appointed. Neither winner satisfied the committee, which preferred a design by Frank Caws previously disqualified for exceeding the stated cost. Furthermore, several councillors mounted a legal challenge to this use of the site, which appeared to contravene a provision that the park was to be open freely to citizens in perpetuity. The whole scheme was abandoned and the Council was humiliated. The building finally erected on the Mowbray Park site was the museum, art gallery, library and winter garden which, being freely open to visitors, did not infringe the covenants affecting the park.




  1. The Architect, 11th July, 1874.