Roker Pier and Lighthouse set to shine on national TV... again

Roker Pier and Lighthouse set to shine on national TV... again

Just five months after starring in BBC One's Countryfile, Roker Pier and Lighthouse is set to shine again on national TV.

The grade II listed landmark is one of 15 historic buildings singled out for a visit by the BBC's The Hairy Builder TV series  as it set out to unlock the secrets behind the walls of some of England’s most beloved historic buildings.

This sees Dave Myers - one half of the Hairy Bikers - touring the country with Britain’s oldest masonry company, William Anelay, as they battle to restore and preserve some of the country’s oldest, most prestigious and architecturally complex large buildings.

The programme visited the pier last Autumn as the company's skilled craftsmen battled against the clock to complete the £2.15m restoration of the much loved landmark in time for its 23 September rededication - 112 years to the day since it first opened to the public in 1903.

During his visit, Dave came face to face with Carmen Higgs, the great, great granddaughter of Henry Hay Wake, the engineer behind the pier, who made a special trip from her home in Australia to unveil the rededication plaque with the then Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Barry Curran.

He also met Phil Tweddell, the grandson of the last lighthouse keeper who showed him round the lighthouse and recalled his memories of it from childhood. 

Phil and the heritage group he chairs have been working with the council to open the tunnel, pier and lighthouse as a visitor attraction this autumn.

Cabinet Secretary, Councillor Mel Speding, said: "I think the programme will provide a fascinating behind the scenes glimpse into the work that has gone into preserving and restoring one of our best loved historic landmarks and the tremendous craftsmanship and skills of those involved.

"It's brilliant to see Roker Pier on national TV for the second time in the space of five months. We've known for a long time what a wonderful asset the pier is for our city and the wider region but it's good to see its historic importance being recognised more widely."

Sunderland City Council is nearing the end of its £2.5 million restoration of Roker Pier, which has seen the lighthouse and tunnel restored and the entire length of the pier resurfaced for the first time in its 113 year history, with the help of Heritage Lottery Funding.

The episode of The Hairy Builder featuring Roker Pier and Lighthouse is due to be broadcast on BBC 2 at 6.30 pm on Monday 25 July.

Roker Pier and Lighthouse Factfile

- Since 2012 Sunderland City Council has been working to conserve, restore and open Roker Pier, tunnel and lighthouse to the public for the first time in its history

- The restoration work is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Sunderland City Council

- This has included conservation of the lantern house, resurfacing of the pier deck, extensive restoration of the lighthouse interior, repair to the tunnel floor and drains and work to improve access

- Following final work to build an entrance structure, the tunnel and lighthouse will open later this year

- Built between 1885 and 1903, Grade II Listed Roker Pier and lighthouse was hailed a 'triumph of engineering' when it first opened 

- The original lantern was gas powered, emitting a 45,000 candlepower reflected beam reputedly visible over 15 miles out to sea. Once complete, the pier extended 2000ft(609.60m)out to sea

- The pier was the brainchild of Henry Hay Wake, chief engineer of the River Wear Commissioners

- It was built using granite faced blocks, each weighing up to 45 tons, constructed on shore in an area known to this day as the blockyard

 - Concrete was poured into huge wooden moulds, which were then manoeuvered into place by a vast crane called the Goliath

- This was driven by gas engines, supplied by gas pipes running along a specially designed tunnel which ran the entire length of the pier. This was later used by the keeper to reach the lighthouse in bad weather, when the waves would have been crashing over the deck

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Did you know?

Perhaps Sunderland's most prominent landmark is Penshaw Monument. It was built in 1844 in honour of the first Earl of Durham, John George Lambton. Penshaw was modelled on Theseion, the Temple of Thesus in Athens.

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