1. Contact Us
Open site navigation menu

Raise a glass to Sunderland's history

A new café bar has joined a hub of independent businesses calling Mackie's Corner home, honouring the city's rich heritage.

Harry Collinson

Raise a glass to Sunderland's history

A new café bar has joined a hub of independent businesses calling Mackie's Corner home, honouring the city's rich heritage.

Following a major restoration project, a historic Sunderland landmark is once again a popular meeting place for wearsiders, with the opening of a new bar and restaurant.

Harry collinson 1

Café 1851, which was founded by local businessman Harry Collinson, has joined a host of new independent businesses breathing life back into the Grade II listed building and wider area.

Alongside his wife Nicola, Harry also runs The Looking Glass, a successful bar and restaurant located in the Sunniside quarter of Sunderland, just a stone's throw away from the renaissance of Mackie's Corner.

It was Harry's love for history and his interest in Sunderland's heritage that pushed him to unexpectedly open Café 1851 during the pandemic, completely transforming the space to celebrate the city's history with the likes of miners' davy lamps hanging from the bar and vintage shipping maps and newspapers adorning the walls.

Harry Collinson 2

As well as the eclectic mix of interiors, the bar and restaurant offers a creative cocktail menu, with one called the Rivit Catcher to honour all of the hard working people who worked at Sunderland's famous shipyards. There is also an array of draught options and food such as stone-baked pizzas, burgers, loaded fries and open sandwiches. 

He said: "When I was approached by the landlords, I initially didn't want to open somewhere else during the pandemic, but I loved the history of Mackie's Corner and in particular for me it was about the experience and destination, and I think that's a great ingredient to have for a hospitality business."I've really tried to give a feast for eyes, so when customers come into 1851 they can remember our history and celebrate it.

"It's something new for people, and I think independents have a lot to offer. We have Amanda and Scott here who runs the The Fat Unicorn, an amazing deli and their knowledge on cheese is just unbelievable. And then we have Sweet Petite and Master Debonair. It's a real destination."

Harry's family have a history of running an independent business in the city, with his dad recently celebrating the 40-year anniversary of his watchmakers shop, Collinson's, which Harry worked at himself when he was 19 years old. Three generations of the family have now worked for the retail side of Collinson's and it's this family business that inspired the name Café 1851.

"I started looking back to the history of the building, and found that Ralph Hutchinson, who was a ship builder and timber merchant, bought some land from Dr William Clanney in 1845 to build on and his first tenant was Robert Mackie, a silk hat maker and everyone used to look in at them making the hats in 1851, so it was a destination then.

"I'm a shopkeeper from my previous job with my dad's business, so I thought it's got to be called 1851. He was the first shopkeeper here, so I'm going to respect and celebrate him."

As the high street changes and Sunderland is transforming, Harry believes it's a really exciting time for independents and a good opportunity for entrepreneurs to come into the city centre.

"I've seen a lot of change in the city over the years, and what I've been impressed about the most is the drive and the ambition of the local authority to reconnect with the business community. It's a great asset for us knowing that they are listening and that the skyline's completely changing over at Riverside which is just a stone's throw away.

"I think in two years' time, it's going to look totally different and with the new train station it will be lovely to give a welcome to people visiting Sunderland. We've got a lot to offer when you think we're only five minutes from the coastline which is getting highly developed too, it's great.

"It's all really positive news and I think that's why it's exciting for new entrepreneurs, they've just got to take that chance."



Share this page

Facebook icon Twitter icon email icon


print icon