We’re exploring Sunderland history and heritage by looking back at the construction of one of Sunderland’s most iconic landscapes.


Introducing the story of Roker Pier in 1889, here’s everything you need to know…


Credit: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums


Our new longing for localised discovery is a great pathway into learning more about our history and heritage.

Whether it be our roaring coastline, enchanting woodlands or one of our many peaceful parks, we’ve explored the great outdoors in many forms over the last year or so. 

We’re all firmly aware of our industrial and coal mining links from bygone eras, but whether it be the Washington Viaduct from 1838, or the remnants of Ryhope East Station, these urban artefacts have a different story to tell about our past.

One of Sunderland’s more popular walking destinations is undoubtedly Roker Pier.

We all know and love the businesses that currently reside there now, but do you ever stop and think; ‘how did they even build this?’.


Exclusive images from the construction of Roker Pier in 1889



Well, this is where we introduce the breathtaking images of the construction of Roker Pier from 1889.

This set of images are taken from a scrapbook kept by Henry Hay Wake, chief engineer to the River Wear Commission. 



Henry Wake designed Roker Pier and managed the construction phase from beginning to end. The Pier’s foundation stone was first laid in September 1885 and it was 18 year laters that the Pier was formally opened on 23 September 1903. 

The Pier is 2,800 feet long and was built with Aberdeen granite and concrete cement at a total cost of £290,000 – around £38m in today’s economy!


A major North East landmark …



Why was Roker Pier built then? Well by all accounts, city chiefs needed a new way to help absorb the treacherous, powerful waves from the North Sea and allow visiting ships a safe passage into the city as trade and commerce flourished in the city.



Roker Pier took over 18 years to finish, and the beam of light from the lighthouse was reportedly visible 15 miles out to sea.

Many of our ancestors would have worked on this gigantic project back then. 

So, when you’re out and about, sipping on a flat white from one of our lovely coffee shops and meandering towards the lighthouse, take a minute to think about how one of Sunderland’s most iconic landmarks came to life all those years ago!



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