The city is a metropolitan borough, which includes the towns of Washington, Houghton-le-Spring and Hetton-le-Hole. The metropolitan borough has a combined population of 280,807 (2001 Census). , making it the largest in North East England. The city of Sunderland within the borough, excluding annexed settlements, has a population of around 195,000.
Located at the mouth of the River Wear, the name 'Sunderland' is reputed to come from Sunder-land: the land divided by the river, and probably dates back to Anglo-Saxon times when there was a monastery (associated with the Venerable Bede) at Wearmouth.
Next to the North Sea, Sunderland was traditionally a major centre of the shipbuilding and coal mining industries, although the last shipyard closed in 1988 and the last coal mine in 1994. The Stadium of Light, home to the city's main football club, Sunderland A.F.C, was built on the site of the city's last coal mine.
Like many cities, it is comprised of several areas with their own distinct histories, eg: Fulwell, Monkwearmouth, Roker and Southwick on the northern side of the Wear, and Bishopwearmouth and Hendon to the south.