Piece of Sunderland life-saving heritage uncovered – in Canada

Commerative trowel used in the opening of Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade Watch House in 1885, discovered in Canada
Commerative trowel used in the opening of Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade Watch House in 1885, discovered in Canada
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LIFE brigade volunteers have received a surprise gift from across the Pond.

A 129-year-old commemorative trowel used to lay the foundation stone of a watch house for Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade was discovered at a house in British Columbia.

Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade members Phyllis Davidson and Alistair Yule, with a commerative trowel used in the opening of a former watchhouse in 1885

Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade members Phyllis Davidson and Alistair Yule, with a commerative trowel used in the opening of a former watchhouse in 1885

Wayne Cox, who lives in the Canadian city of Surrey, found the engraved trowel among his father’s possessions.

It is thought to have been used at the opening of a watch house used before the present one, which was built in 1905/06, that was at the landward end of the North Pier.

It reads: “This trowel was presented to Joseph Michael Smith, by Captain Barlow and members of the Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade it being used by him for the laying of the foundation stone of their new watch house on the North Pier September 23, 1885.”

The historical find will go on show at the Watch House in Roker, which is now used as museum of life brigade history.

Katy Gill, head of the Watch House Museum, said “The Brigade is delighted to receive this part of our history, and we thank Mr Cox for his generosity.

“We did not know that the trowel existed until Mr Cox got in touch and it has sparked more research.” Born in 1811, 
Joseph Michael Smith was a draper and later a ship owner. He was instrumental in the founding of the Volunteer Life Brigade in Sunderland.