SLIDESHOW: Sunderland Bank Holiday pictures from days gone by

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Wearsiders do like to be beside the seaside whatever the decade – as these photos show.

The charm of sand castles, rock pooling and beach picnics has seen millions flock to Seaburn and Roker by foot, train, tram and bus since Victorian times.

Kids on the beach in 1974.

Kids on the beach in 1974.

“Today the beach is still a huge draw – although the fairground, boating lake and train are mere memories,” said Echo photographic archivist Susan Swinney.

Sunderland’s seaside started to develop back in the 1840s, at a time when it was fashionable to ‘take the waters’ at beach resorts.

The Roker Hotel, designed by architect John Dobson, was THE place to stay for those with money. Others had to settle for a day trip via carriage or train.

“As the decades passed, so the seaside became ever more popular – especially with the addition of piers, a promenade and Roker Park,” said Susan.

Seaburn August 1990.

Seaburn August 1990.

“The opening of coastal tram route in April 1879 also helped boost visitor numbers, as did the illuminations – which lit up the sea front from 1937.”

A contest was even held to improve Roker seafront in the 1890s, with construction workers drafted in from the overflowing local unemployment list.

Plans drawn up by Thomas Ridley Milburn won the competition – with his ideas featuring restaurants, shops, bazaars, a promenade and covered shelters.

Such was the popularity of the area that plans for a new hotel, swimming pool, golf course, tennis courts, a garden and paddling pool were drawn up in 1936.

Seaburn in August 1990.

Seaburn in August 1990.

But, although the hotel scheme went ahead – with Seaburn Hotel opening the following year – war put a stop to many of the grander plans for several years.

“Once war was declared, the beaches were barricaded. They weren’t reopened until 1944 – and unexploded bombs proved a hazard for a while,” said Susan.

“But a new generation flocked to enjoy the sand and, over the next decade, new attractions such as a funfair, boating lake and mini railway opened.”

The arrival of cheap package holidays – complete with guaranteed sun – put a dampner on visitor numbers from the 1970s, although the area remains popular today.

A family has fun burying one another in the sand in 1988.

A family has fun burying one another in the sand in 1988.

“I’m sure most Echo readers can look back on happy times at the beach – and I hope these photos evoke some fond memories,” added Susan.

Roker  August 1988.

Roker August 1988.

Aaron Dougan meets Punch and Judy at Seaburn in August 1990.

Aaron Dougan meets Punch and Judy at Seaburn in August 1990.

Havinf fuin at Mowbray Park in August 1988.

Havinf fuin at Mowbray Park in August 1988.

A Wearside beach visitor using her boot to erect a wind breaker in 1975.

A Wearside beach visitor using her boot to erect a wind breaker in 1975.

This lady appears to be knitting herself some fun in 1975.

This lady appears to be knitting herself some fun in 1975.

Fishing for fun at Mowbray Park in 1987.

Fishing for fun at Mowbray Park in 1987.