Sunderland Iron Bridge Glass

At the end of the 18th century the town of Sunderland needed a bridge to join the south bank where the town stood, to the north bank.  At the time it was possible to cross the river by ferry or alternatively take the long journey up the River Wear to the closest crossing at Chester-le-Street. Two local politicians, Rowland Burdon and Ralph Milbanke backed the idea of a bridge so in 1792 a bridge committee was set up to design a bridge. An iron bridge had already been built in Coalbrookedale in Shropshire made of cast iron beams and this very modern idea to span the River Wear was decided upon.

The bridge took a couple of years to build and was finished in 1796 and at that time was the world’s largest single span bridge.

One of the items made to commemorate the building of the bridge were glasses with an engraved scene of the new Iron Sunderland bridge as seen below

Sunderland Bridge Rummer

One of the main specifications of the design of the bridge was that the span was high enough to allow ships to pass safely underneath as can be seen on the glasses. Sunderland was an important ship building town and newly constructed ships had to pass under the new bridge and out to sea.


A ship in full sail under the bridge

The glasses were made from the late 18th century and because of demand continued to be made and sold well into the middle of the 19th century. Glasses of this size and larger are called “Rummers”, but it is nothing to do with rum but we believe comes from the German word for a large glass “Roemer”, and would hold half a pint or more with a short stem and large bowl.

Graham Smith


Graham Smith Antiques has been established for 14 years but Graham has been in the antiques business for 40 years. We trade on line and from showrooms on the edge of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and all  the items shown on the website are available to view at the show rooms where they are set out in four room settings – for ease of viewing. As long time members of LAPADA [the Association of Art and Antiques Dealers], the UK’s largest trade association for professional art and antiques dealers, we want all our customers to be confident to buy from us on line or in person and make every effort to make each sale a pleasure.  Please take some time to read our Testimonials page which can be found on the home page of our website.


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