Whitburn Road, along the Sea Front
In the 18th century Sunderland was undergoing a period of transformation. This small town situated on the south bank of the River Wear was now growing dramatically as a commercial and industrial port. This required changes to the mouth of the River, which once consisted of large rock beds and mudflats. Despite opposition from Newcastle merchants, the “River Wear Commission” was created in 1717 and was tasked with clearing out and transforming the river.
As a part of this gradual transformation, over the following century two piers were created in order to protect and facilitate the passage of ships. This first included the south pier, built from 1723-1730, and then later on the North Pier from 1786 to 1796. It should be noted that this new pier was not the one we know as “Roker Pier” today, but was shorter and straight in its design around the mouth of the river.
Several lighthouses were then placed on the new North Pier. In 1856, a white coloured cast iron light house, known as “Meik’s lighthouse” (named after the Scottish Engineer who designed it) was created. Just a decade later. However, the decision was made to make two new, superior design arch piers around the River. With it, came Roker Pier, which was completed with its Lighthouse in 1903, leaving the previous pier and lighthouse obsolete.
In the century that followed, the old North Pier remained but crumbled into a state of decay. In the 1980s, the decision was then made to salvage and restore the old White lighthouse, and as such it was moved to neighbouring Seaburn and placed on Cliffe Park as a decoration. Although no longer functional or accessible, the Seaburn lighthouse has become a visual icon of the area, illustrating the appeal and atmosphere of Sunderland’s seafront.