Sutherland, Sir Arthur Munro
1867 – 1953
Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland, 1st Baronet, KBE was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, the son of Benjamin John Sutherland, a shipping merchant. He was educated at Newcastle Royal Grammar School. In 1884, aged 17, he joined shipbrokers Lindsay, Gracie & Co as a clerk before entering his father’s business, B.J Sutherland & Co, which he would eventually chair. Over the next twenty years, he would transform his family business into a worldwide cargo shipping empire, moving goods all over the world from its base on the banks of the Tyne. Sutherland’s business was in providing freighters, particularly for the coal trade during the early 20th century. Over the preceding centuries, Newcastle had grown as an exporter of coal, with 15 million tons of coal transported from the Tyne in 1911. Between 1919 and 1922 Sutherland sold most of his vessels at inflated prices, principally because of the shortage of ships in the post-war era, which consolidated his wealth. He then expanded his business concerns outside of shipping and in 1920 purchased the Newcastle Chronicle chain of newspapers for £800,000. In this period, he was also briefly the owner of the motor manufacturer, Aston Martin. His son Gordon (b.1908) served as a director of the business in the 1920s and 1930s, and in 1936 Sutherland made a one-off investment of £10,000 to develop a revolutionary new car known as the ‘Sutherland Aston Martin’.
He was a longstanding and prominent servant of the city. He served on Newcastle City Council, as Sheriff of Newcastle, he was a Justice of the Peace, a governor of the Royal Grammar School, and served as Lord Mayor of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1918-19. He also served a term as chairman of the Tyne Improvement Commissioners and of the Newcastle and Gateshead Chamber of Commerce. On a national level, as a well-known ship-owner, he was President of the Chamber of Shipping and of the Shipping Federation between 1938 and 1950. During the First World War, a great number of commercial ships were interned in German ports and he was responsible for negotiating their release.
Sutherland was supported by his Methodist faith, helping develop in him a strong philanthropic spirit. He gave away a large proportion of his wealth in his own lifetime. He donated Dunstanburgh Castle to the nation in 1929, and, perhaps most notably, he donated £200,000 in 1936 (equivalent to approximately £13.5m in today’s money) to construct a new medical school building at the newly named King's College, Newcastle upon Tyne, then part of the University of Durham, later a Faculty of Newcastle University. Work on the building, which is now known as the King George VI building, began in 1936 and was completed in 1938. It was opened in 1939 by King George VI himself. In 1947, Sutherland donated a further £50,000 to facilitate the Dental School to move to the renovated former medical school building in Northumberland Road, now known as the Sutherland Building of Northumbria University.
Upon his death in 1953, aged 86, Sutherland bequeathed his townhouse, Thurso House on Fernwood Road in Jesmond, to the city for use as the new Mansion House. The house is now operated by the Mansion House Trust for the benefit of the people of Newcastle.
Sutherland was awarded a KBE in 1920 for his services as Lord Mayor and then made a Baronet in 1921. He married Fanny Haggie on 7th June 1893 and had 4 children, Linda (d. 1988), Arthur (1894 – 1941), Benjamin, 2nd Baronet (1901-1980) Gordon (b. 1908). The current Baronet is Benjamin’s son, Sir John Sutherland (b. 1931).
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