Abstract: Frameworks and Freemasons: Municipal Affairs and Business Infrastructure in Late Eighteenth-Century Sunderland

Gill Cookson


The paper considers the means through which an economic infrastructure developed during the eighteenth century in Sunderland, a well-established center of the coal trade in northeast England, looking in particular at improvements to the river and port from 1717, and the construction of Wearmouth bridge, 1790-96. It considers the relationship between business and community, private and public concerns, and the role of local government and other organizations in driving these works. The paper examines the structure of local business and its capability to build necessary infrastructure, and explores the motivations of groups and individuals who affected developments, especially the prominent part taken by local lodges of freemasons in building the Wearmouth bridge, the second major iron bridge in the world.