Fixing the pier while the sun shines

It was stormy seas like this, battering Roker Pier, that sent coping stones and railings crashing into the sea.

Hoping to take advantage of calmer seas during the Summer, work started in July to repair the damage to Roker Pier, caused by stormy seas in November 2016. Back then, a section of the pier’s railings and the coping stones to which they were attached, were dislodged and washed over the side and into the sea below. The gap in the railings meant that the pier needed to be closed to the public while an assessment took place and repair work could be undertaken. It was subsequently decided that as well as replacing the coping stones and missing section of railings, the rest of the pier’s railings would be restored or replaced too.

New granite coping stones are being fixed into place along a section of Roker Pier near the lighthouse.
This section of railings was thought to have been added in the 1970’s, but with little regards to sympathetically matching the pier’s original railings. These railings are being removed and replaced with new railings that match the original historic design.
Some of the original railings were found to be in surprisingly good condition, although encrusted in old paint and rust. After shot-blasting and a coat of protective paint, they are looking as good as new.
Who’d have thought it! After painstakingly chipping of the layers of old paint and being shot-blasted, these railing are ready for their final coat of paint.

In addition to this work, construction of a new entrance portal for the pier tunnel has also been undertaken. When completed, the new portal will allow visitors to safely descend into the tunnel which runs the length of the pier. Originally, this tunnel, which exits inside the base of the lighthouse, allowed safe access for the lighthouse keepers during stormy seas. The plan is that the new portal will allow visitors to take part in guided tours of both the tunnel, lighthouse and pier.

The main concrete sections of the new tunnel portal have already been lifted into place. The structure is to be faced with dressed granite and glass.

Volunteer heritage guides will take people below the pier deck and walk in the steps of the lighthouse keepers, through the pier tunnel, emerging inside the lighthouse. This distinctive landmark recently underwent a major programme of restoration, bringing it back to how it would have looked when it was first built more than a century ago.

It was a gentleman called Henry Hay Wake (1844-1911), engineer to the River Wear Commission, who was largely responsible for the construction of the piers at the mouth of the River Wear. Henry, whose home was in Thornhill Gardens, Sunderland, was also consulting engineer to the Aberdeen Harbour Authority and helped design the piers at Seaham Harbour.

Visitors to the tunnel will see a legacy, left by Henry Hay Wake, just before they reach the lighthouse. Set into the tunnel wall are marble slabs, bearing the names of his children!

Roker Lighthouse itself has also been impressively restored to its former glory. Attention to detail has meant that the lighthouse now looks as good inside as when it was first built. It really will be like stepping back through time as you make your way through the tunnel, and emerging inside the iconic lighthouse.

Roker Lighthouse has been impressively restored to its former glory!

The current repair work taking place along the pier itself includes replacing 800 metres of modern railing with historic replica railings. Coping stones are being replaced to the 100 metre section near the lighthouse that suffered in last November’s stormy seas. The mesh panels along the bottom of railings are also being replaced with single low-level rails. Finally, other sections of original railings are being shot-blasted and repainted.