The Red House – Sunderland, England - Atlas Obscura

The Red House

An enigmatic sculpture depicts a ruined home with debris stretching for over half a mile along the river. 


The Red House sculpture depicts the bottom floor of a home that has been ruined and left to the mercy of the elements. Carved in red sandstone are a number of items commonly found in homes, such as pots and pans, a fireplace, a table, books, a chair, a sink, and a table. The scattered debris stretches for over half a mile down the River Wear.

The intriguing outdoor artwork is a curiosity of St Peter’s Riverside, a revitalized harbor area on the north bank of the river that was once an industrial shipbuilding hub. The sculpture’s meaning is left ambiguous, but many locals believe the concept was chosen as a way to remember the nearly 300 people who were killed in Sunderland as a result of German bombing raids during World War II.

With the River Wear being so narrow and the shipyards on its banks responsible for at least a quarter of all merchant ships produced during the war, Sunderland was a prime target for the Luftwaffe. It ended up being one of the most bombed cities in Britain during the war. The Red House is located on these very banks where countless homes were destroyed and left in a similar state as depicted in the sculpture. Both the north and south approaches to the installation along the river are scattered with various debris made from the same sandstone as the main sculpture, perhaps as a way to show the extent of the devastation.

Another interpretation is that the ruined home harkens back to the time when the area was a flourishing and densely packed neighborhood, before declining. The sculpture was carved from large blocks of red sandstone on location by Colin Wilbourn and Karl Fisher in the 1990s. The piece was as a part of the St Peter’s Riverside sculpture project, part of the regeneration of the area.

Know Before You Go

The sculpture is located on Topcliff Road along the Riverside walkway in St Peter's Riverside. It is one of around a dozen public artworks that make up the St Peter’s sculpture trail.

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