Following the restoration of historic properties. Dave Myers is in Roker, Sunderland, to help restore an iconic structure - Roker Lighthouse and its 600-metre pier.
Browse content similar to Roker Lighthouse. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Want to know about British history? You'd better get your hands dirty!
Don't bury your head in a guide book -
ask a brickie...
or a roofer.
Ever since I were a boy, I've had a passion for our past.
I'm going to apprentice myself to the oldest masonry company
in the country,
mastering their crafts and scraping away
the secrets of Blighty's poshest piles.
From castles to cathedrals,
music halls to mansions,
palaces to public schools.
These aren't just buildings,
they are keys to opening up our past and bringing it back to life.
Today I'm in Sunderland in the north-east of England
and I'm here to help restore this iconic superstructure -
-Welcome to the best view in town.
-You can see for miles!
'I take time out for a spot of fishing with the locals...'
-Oh, it's pulling.
'..and get my hands on a monster machine down at the docks.'
As big boys' toys go, this has to be the biggest
I've ever played with!
In the 19th century,
Sunderland became a very prosperous city when its small harbour
was transformed into a thriving dock.
And nearby, on the coast of Sunderland,
is the popular tourist resort of Roker.
For over 100 years, Roker's colossal pier
has sheltered Sunderland Harbour
and its lighthouse has guided returning ships home safely.
Lighthouse keepers looked after this impressive tower for 60 years.
But when it became fully automated in the 1970s,
it slowly fell into disrepair.
Although today it's still a functioning lighthouse,
it hasn't had any maintenance for years and has suffered vandalism.
So it's in desperate need of some TLC.
Construction firm William Anelay have a £500,000 budget to restore
this much-loved historic lighthouse and its pier.
Contracts manager Sam Weller is going to give me an insight
into the work going on.
By heck, that's a heck of a front door you've got!
Yeah, it's a submarine door so it's designed to be watertight.
The sea crashes over the pier and at times it's been over
-the lighthouse as well.
Has this been a particularly difficult job?
It has. It's the first lighthouse we've done as a company, I believe.
It's the first lighthouse I've definitely been involved in.
So what did this place look like when you arrived?
It was getting on for derelict.
Obviously all the windows were bricked up inside here -
there were still shutters on the outside.
The door itself was rusted and all corroded and looked a mess.
So things like these tiles, are these all original?
These tiles that you can see here, these are original.
-And the tiles just behind you there, they're the new tiles
that basically are as near replica as we can get
to the existing.
So that brass rail, was that here or is that a replacement?
No, that's all new.
It's an exact replica of what was there before it was stolen.
They weren't strong enough to get the windows, thankfully.
Are they brass as well?
Yes. Hopefully now with the new doors, new windows and things,
we should have it as security tight as it can be, really.
It's such a symbol of Sunderland as well,
you want it to be spick and span.
Yeah, it's a landmark, isn't it?
It's what makes these parts of the world so good.
Restoration has included the removal and repair of the lighthouse's
existing brass windows.
It's undergone 100% external repointing of the brickwork...
..and there's also been extensive work going on underground.
When the 600m long pier was constructed,
a tunnel was built underneath.
It stretches all the way from the lighthouse
to the lighthouse keeper's cottage on the shore.
The tunnel provided a safe alternative route
when the weather conditions were bad.
Over time it became blocked up with sand and silt.
Part of the restoration was to clear it out,
but it wasn't an easy task.
Getting on for 700m worth of tunnel there.
One way in, one way out, and that's how everything came out.
So it was all bagged up and dragged down to one end and two men in there
for a couple of weeks with a head torch.
Does your heart drop when you see that
or do you regard it as a challenge?
Mine didn't so much, because I knew I wasn't going in there!
It was to try to find someone who'd upset you recently
and send them down there for a couple of weeks of misery, really!
It's brilliant, isn't it?
You know, the lighthouse is naturally stripy -
it's built out of alternate layers of red and grey Aberdeenshire granite.
You know, the thing is, it doesn't need painting, ever!
But you know, it's more than a 42m high stick of rock.
To the lighthouse keeper,
it was his office and sometimes his family's home from home.
Being a lighthouse keeper was all about hard work and commitment.
The job criteria was incredibly specific and keepers were on call
at all times and required to stay awake to watch that the light
didn't go out or stop revolving.
Some of the lighthouses had no running water, heating or toilets,
and dinner came mostly from a tin.
I'm not sure how long I would have lasted!
The days of lighthouse keepers here at Roker may have come to an end,
but the builders are determined to keep any restoration work
to the lighthouse and pier close to the original.
On three of the four floors
the interior walls are covered in mahogany.
The construction firm are working closely
with a specialist timber company who will supply
environmentally-sustainable wood panels to replace the damaged ones.
It's the conical shape of the lighthouse
that makes their job difficult.
Everything in there is round.
There's not a straight edge to be found,
so every panel has got to be tapered to a certain radius so when the guys
go onto the site, all the panels slot together to create that perfect
radius for the internal panelling.
It would be nice if they made all their lighthouses square.
It would save all the curved panels, all curved mouldings,
all the curved skirting boards - it would be much, much easier.
Already the firm have made 300 tapered wood panels
for three of the four floors.
We do one side at a time. We put the tongue on,
we change the set and we put it back through to create the groove.
We can start to slot these together.
One by one...
..and they'll all slide together.
The panels are finished off with a little sanding and delivered here
to the lighthouse for the finishing touches.
Joiners John and Trever have 30 years of experience between them.
Fitting the panels isn't an easy job - it's all about precision
and a lot of patience.
With the panelling, we're not working with a straight board,
so setting stuff out, trying to keep it so it's all plumb,
it's a bit of a challenge.
The panels are oiled on site
to protect them from harsh weather conditions.
And they look as good as the original.
It's a very nice board and looks the part.
I can tell the difference,
but that's only because we work with it.
And I think it's time I inspected the lads' work.
This must've been a woodworking job and a half!
Yeah, it was.
It was harder for us than it was for joiners way back when.
-Because they put the boards on,
-and then they plastered to the boards.
-We can't cheat by taking the plaster off.
Did you have to kind of fettle much of it to make it fit as you went?
-Bet you'd never have a round house, though, would you?
No. Bit sick of it now!
The design of the lighthouse and pier was the brainchild of engineer
Henry Hay Wake and was completed in 1903.
It was an incredible feat of construction.
The pier took 18 years to build and its massive foundations
first had to be sunk to bear its weight.
A giant pump lifted tonnes of sand
and concrete provided a stable base on the seabed.
Concrete was poured into colossal wooden moulds
and then when it was dry it was lifted by cranes.
As the pier got further and further out,
so the concrete blocks were transported by steam train.
45 tonnes of granite-faced blocks completed the pier.
It was a huge operation,
but essential to protect Sunderland's thriving port.
The harbour was once a small, hazardous bay.
But by the end of the 19th century,
it had become one of the largest coal shipping ports in the UK,
with an estimated 15,000 tonnes of coal being transported every day.
Jack Curtis grew up by these docks and knows everything
about its development over the years.
With the demand for coal came a demand for ships.
-So what happened,
the little shipyards sprang up all the way up the river.
And the men who had the money built little ships and exported coal
-and made their fortunes.
-Fantastic. And that built the city.
And that built the city. It was a bustling, thriving, busy port.
-We had ships coming here from all over the world.
You had shipyards, you had sawmills.
'And it was engineer Henry Hay Wake who put his stamp on the port
'and really developed it into what it is today.'
He extended and he altered and he did quite a few things to them.
But Henry Wake's great claim to fame
-is our pier's magnificent lighthouse.
What people don't realise is that the South Pier was never finished,
otherwise there would have been two lighthouses
at the mouth of the river.
Like a proper port entry.
Aye, which could have been fantastic.
Another of Wake's genius designs was this swing bridge.
Situated on the East Dock,
it's probably the oldest working piece of equipment in the port.
Pretty much every day, every shipping movement,
the bridge gets swung off, ships go through,
-obviously get discharged, loaded.
I've got a letter here dated the 15th of June 1888,
addressed to Henry Wake,
who was the engineer for the River Wear Commissioners at the time.
He was also the engineer who built Roker Lighthouse!
-That's right, that's right.
"I send you enclosed herewith the completed calculations
"for the swing bridge, the number three gateway.
"I'm sorry I've not been able to return them before!"
That's like the birth certificate of the bridge, isn't it?
Isn't it amazing to think that all those years ago,
he sat there and wrote that, and it's still working today?
Yes, he was obviously good at what he did!
Technology has moved on a bit and today's Sunderland Dock demands new,
powerful machinery to keep up with the modern shipping industry.
It now relies on humongous cranes like this.
I'm at the docks to find out what this monster crane can do.
Well, I've seen the old side of the port of Sunderland,
this is definitely a glimpse of the future!
'Sunderland's ports are still key to the region's economy,
'transporting goods around the world.
'But it's fantastic machinery like this that does all the hard work.
'With a little help from our man Geoff.'
This is the remote that comes with the crane.
I bet you had some great radio-controlled cars!
Oh, I did! This is one of the best presents I've had, I'm telling you!
Good grief! What weight is that?
Well, the whole crane structure, I would say,
-is in excess of about 350 tonnes.
-And what can you lift?
It can lift a maximum of 120 tonnes.
So it's mobile, so you can actually drive that just like a massive toy?
Yes, it can go all the way round the dock, no problem.
You've even got a spiral staircase!
It's very trendy!
'It cost a whopping £2.5 million for this beast, but already
'it's increased the amount of cargo the port can handle.'
-It's so precise, isn't it?
So you can't go very, very quick, which you wouldn't anyway!
No north-eastern boy racers with this.
No, no, nothing like that, no!
They keep a lid on it!
-It's a good piece of kit.
So would you like to have a go, then, Dave?
I've never been the most coordinated of people,
but I'd love to have a shot.
Right, we might as well have a go. All I need you to do
is to bring the boom in to 27m cos we're off 31 now.
It will not travel until you're 27m.
-I've got the safety catch on at the minute.
-So I'll take it off and then it's all yours.
And is this up or down?
That... If you face the way the crane is, it's a lot easier.
-So you want to pull that back nice and slow and that will bring
-your boom right back.
Keeping an eye on the figures, to 27.
There's no messing about with this!
-It overrides a little bit, doesn't it?
-It touched 27.
-A little bit more.
As big boys' toys go, this has to be the biggest I've ever played with!
It's a belter, isn't it?
I've just seen the future!
Back on site, I'm keen to get to the very top of this lighthouse.
They were fit lads, these lighthouse keepers, I tell you!
I'm only on level three!
'The renovation isn't just about the aesthetics of the building.'
We're getting near the business end now.
I can see electricity.
'Because it's a fully-functioning lighthouse,
'everything must work to perfection.
'Especially its lantern.'
-Hello, I'm Dave.
-Hello, Dave, welcome to the best view in town!
-Isn't it? You can see for miles.
-Fantastic, isn't it? Yeah.
So this is a brand-new light, so it's the modern version.
Do you know, I've got to admit,
I always thought the lamp would be massive,
filling the whole top of the lighthouse.
This looks rather small!
Well, this is the modern one,
which is half the size of the original.
-The original gas-powered one was 45,000 candlelight power
with a range of about 15 miles out to sea.
-But this, half the size and more range.
Do you know, it's one of those jobs,
I'd quite like to be a lighthouse keeper.
I'd be sitting there at my table,
I'd be building a model of HMS Trafalgar out of match stalks,
with a bottle of rum by my side.
And all I had to do was remember to light that gas light.
-And polish the light. I'm glad you offered.
-Is it just...?
-Yeah, just clean the glass.
Do you know, it's fantastic to think that this lighthouse will be here
guiding people into the port for another 112 years.
It's a nice thought, isn't it?
Yeah, especially when you've had the chance to work on it.
Could you ever work, say, on a modern building site now?
No, no. I must admit, this is where I like to do my work.
-It's more of a sense of pride.
Yeah. I can see that.
It's certainly a great view from the top of the lighthouse.
But I want to find out more about the tunnel down below.
Phil Tweddell, grandson of the last lighthouse keeper,
got to know it pretty well.
Of anybody, you must know this lighthouse better than most.
Yes, I think I have a lot of experience in the lighthouse.
Very many childhood memories.
-Of Grandfather being the lighthouse keeper.
Was it a lonely job for him?
He was here on his own most of the time,
but I think he quite enjoyed the company of myself
and my other cousins coming down to annoy him at times.
If the weather was bad, we would come down through the tunnel
and he used to have his practical jokes.
We would telephone him to say we were on our way
and he would know we were halfway down the tunnel,
then he would start banging the door on the tunnel.
And it used to boom!
Echoed all the way through.
Phil's grandfather, William Emerson, worked here from 1940 to 1965.
His job would have included trimming the wick of the oil lamp,
polishing the lenses, and winding up the revolving mechanisms
every hour or two to keep the light turning.
Well, Dave, this is the tunnel.
And this tunnel goes all the way back to the mainland, to the beach?
That's right, to the beach, yes.
So shall we have a wander down?
So is this tunnel...this is in, like, the main belly of the pier?
This is in the centre of the pier.
It's above the water level, but obviously the water,
the tide rises
and that's how you sometimes get the water ingress into the pier.
The engineering involved in building this tunnel alone
is pretty remarkable, that somebody had the foresight to build this.
I think the engineering work when it was first built at the time,
-112 years ago, is absolutely magnificent.
And now we've come to one of the skylights, Dave,
where they've now replaced them with extremely strong glass.
-Where previously it was very thick glass,
but occasionally they would break.
And I know my grandad would hammer in little squares of wood
to stop the water coming in at times,
till they'd get the proper glass to replace them.
You know when you see the restoration work,
does it gladden your heart?
I am over the moon the way this restoration work has gone.
I give every credit to the people involved,
who've bought this back to its original condition.
I think my grandfather would be really pleased.
Time I got some fresh air.
And what better than a breather on the pier
with a couple of the locals?
Since this pier has been paved for the first time ever in its history,
it has attracted the attentions of more than just a few fishermen
who come down here to catch a little fishy on a little dishy,
and do you know what?
They don't have to wait for the boat to come in, either!
Oh, it's pulling!
Mackerel. Mackerel, I would think.
Yes. It's a decent one, too.
Belter! That's a beautiful fish.
Look at the size of that!
It's a bit late in the season. The mackerel are big this time of year.
That is beautiful, isn't it?
-You'll have that for your tea.
-I'll have them for my tea,
or keep them for the dog! Dogs love fish.
There's nothing better than coming down here for a couple of hours.
You get deep-sea fishing because you're 2,000ft out.
That one's going back in, if you're not careful!
Sometimes we just fillet them and just do a little bit of sushi
-while we're on.
-Can I have a bit?
-Yeah, you can, certainly.
Go on, what's your sushi recipe?
You've got a bit of soy, a bit of lime...
And a little bit of jalapeno.
-It's nice, isn't it?
-That's absolutely brilliant.
And just takes two seconds.
Doesn't get much better, does it?
-What else can you catch off here?
This time of year, obviously we're changing from autumn to winter.
-You get a lot of codling, whiting, a lot of flatfish.
-Codling are beautiful, aren't they?
Depending on the size of the tides
and whether we've got a bit of a swell,
obviously the bigger the seas, the more fish we catch.
-Brilliant, isn't it?
-There's food for free.
-Well, it is, yeah.
-Hey, well, tight lines, lads!
-Yeah. Thank you.
-Let's have a cast.
Right, who wants their ears pierced?
'I'm a dab hand at fishing, I'll show them how it's done!'
I think I've hooked on.
-Just a technicality.
'It might be an old bike or something,
'but it's certainly not a fish.'
Me heart went then, I thought I'd got one!
I do love me fishing.
'Well, better luck next time, eh?'
Back to the job in hand.
I've got some work to do, as today's the lighthouse and pier's birthday.
And it's a grand old 112.
Not a bad achievement,
when you consider that these old friends
have been battered by the North Sea every day of their lives.
The Right Worshipful Mayor of Sunderland
will be unveiling a plaque later
and I'm helping to organise a little knees-up
so that the locals can celebrate in style.
Time to help the builders get the preparations underway.
Righto, gentlemen, it's not long now until the mayor arrives.
We need to put the plaque up and we need one of those curtain things.
You know, like, "I name this lighthouse Roker Light!"
Are you ready with the screwdriver?
Yeah, we haven't got a plug in that one.
Oh, sorry! I'll hush me mouth!
-Should I go?
-How good are you with screwing?
A bit rough and ready, but you know, I'll...
-Cos this is only a temporary structure, isn't it?
You know, gentlemen, obviously what you do works very fine.
But what are your houses like? Are they rubbish?
Took me three years to put a bit of skirting on at home!
Wife would play hell with me.
-Because, well, you don't feel like doing...
It's like a busman's holiday.
My wife's a dressmaker, and can I heck as like get curtains?
One curtain, Dave.
Oh, I've got a hook.
If I had a brain, I'd be dangerous.
I think I'm there, lads.
I declare this lighthouse open!
You're going to have to stand behind it and pull it.
Just pull it off.
'It'll be all right on the night, I hope.
'Next up, it's the bubbly.'
We've got plastic glasses.
That's not right, is it, really?
Always wear a hard hat.
You think you're safe, but you never are.
Come on, gents, let's fill these glasses.
Now, what you do with the bubbly to open it -
this is a tip you'll remember all your life -
so it doesn't fly everywhere,
you take the cage off the top, then you hold the bottom,
the top, and turn the bottle.
And you'll find out it won't go everywhere.
-It's a nice sound, that, isn't it?
'Bubbly's popped...' Music!
'..and the brass band are here.'
Thank you so much for coming. How many musicians have we got?
There's nothing more evocative than a brass band, is there?
You haven't heard yet!
'Everyone's come along to celebrate, from local councillors...'
Builders have done you proud, a spectacular job.
-Of the old school, aren't they?
It's very much an intrinsic part of the history of Sunderland.
You know now it's going to last for another couple of hundred years,
-so good on you.
'..to a raucous local bike group.'
I've got some drink, you can have a little bit!
You can have loads. Have as much as you like!
You'll be all right, you won't fall off the back.
'It's an exciting time as Carmen Higgs,
'the great-great-granddaughter of Henry Hay Wake,
'will be the guest of honour.'
Hello, Carmen, I'm Dave.
Welcome to Roker Pier!
-Thank you, you too.
-You've come a long way, haven't you?
I have. Originally from Zimbabwe, but now I live in Australia, so...
I've been finding out so much about your great-great-grandfather
and the effect he's had on this town.
What does it feel like for you,
being able to come back here and celebrate it?
I didn't know much about this.
Coming from Zimbabwe, we'd never seen Sunderland,
we never knew, really, what this place was like.
And last year we came over
and got treated to a sightseeing tour through it.
-That was just fantastic.
I suppose it's quite touching,
because it's part of my family history.
You know, to see that people now are appreciating it and it's still
standing after 112 years is something.
Well, now it'll stand for another 112.
Well, I've been busy. I've got the champagne out, we've got the band.
-I've even put the curtain up for the plaque.
So if it doesn't work, it's my fault.
Go through, Carmen, and we'll get you a drink.
Right, so the dignitaries and the locals are all here.
I've spruced myself up ready for the grand unveiling.
Should I make a little announcement?
Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to welcome you to Roker Lighthouse
and Roker Pier, which I'm sure you all know better than I do.
We'd like welcome the Royal Worshipful Mayor of Sunderland,
and his Mayoress, to the event,
which marks the 112th birthday of Roker Lighthouse.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm deeply honoured
to have you here as a guest today
and ask you to join me with celebrating the achievements
of the team who have delivered this impressive project.
-That's as good as it goes.
-There you are.
'Oh, maybe we should've spent some more time on that curtain!'
To continue our celebrations,
I would like to invite the Westoe Brass Band,
who are going to play for us.
A one, a two, a one, two, three, four!
BRASS BAND PLAYS
Today, the people of Roker have come to celebrate
this magnificent structure.
This, the guiding light to the ships of the north.
And the locals can't wait to take a first look at the newly-renovated
lighthouse and pier.
What does this work mean to you, that has been done here?
Oh, I think it's wonderful! I live in Roker.
-And to know that this pier and our lighthouse will be
open again for us - well, I've never seen it open...
-..will be magnificent.
What does Roker Pier and Lighthouse mean to you?
I've seen a lot growing up. My dad used to fish here as well,
so it's nice to be part of the community like that.
Coming from the stadium, we used to play at Roker Park as well...
-..which has got a big link to Roker Pier and the heritage there.
-It's in your blood, isn't it?
-It's in the blood, aye.
Happy birthday, Roker! APPLAUSE
Some buildings try to impress us with their scale and flashy design.
But this lighthouse,
it isn't some monument to an architect's inflated ego.
I mean, Roker Lighthouse has proved its practical worth
and it's won the affections of the local people,
and I think that's something that's well worth celebrating.
Next time, I'll be at this stunning stately home,
Bramall Hall in Stockport, greater Manchester.
I'll be unravelling some secret medieval cartoons...
-Ride a cockhorse to Banbury Cross!
..getting to grips with a bit of woodwork...
I'd turn the chisel the other way round.
..and discovering that the area was famous for its luxurious hats.
-I thought it was wool for felt.
-Stockport's fur, much higher class.
Really? That's a posh hat.
This time, Dave Myers is in Roker in Sunderland in the north east of England to help restore an iconic super structure - Roker Lighthouse and its 600-metre pier. This guiding light over Sunderland's harbour and its pier is in desperate need of an overhaul and builders are working hard to get it back to its original form.
Inside the lighthouse, Dave discovers the perils of restoring a round building, climbs to the very top to polish its lantern and goes underground into a tunnel built to keep the lighthouse keeper safe when the weather got treacherous.
On Sunderland's docks, Dave gets to grips with a monster crane and he puts his skills to the test as he prepares a get-together with the mayor and Roker's locals to commemorate the opening of the lighthouse and its pier.