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The unusual and colourful history of Sunderland’s river Wear

Twenty-month-old Miss Chandris about to launch a ship of the same name in 1959 on the Wear.
Twenty-month-old Miss Chandris about to launch a ship of the same name in 1959 on the Wear.
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This week, we look at more snippets from the Wear’s colourful history.

On November 8, 1920, the River Wear Commissioners (RWC) discontinued the use of the fog bell on the Old South Pier.

At the same time, a bell was installed on the Old North Pier to be sounded for one minute every three minutes during fog.

During the 1920s and 1930s, a number of Wear yards fell victim to the depression in the shipbuilding industry.

J Blumer and Co was one of these and had been launching ships at North Dock since 1865.

The company’s last launch took place on December 3, 1926, involving the 3,517 gross ton steamship Cydonia (its 258th ship), which was sold to Stag Line of North Shields.

She hit a stray wartime mine off Wales in 1949 and was consequently scrapped.

A relic of Sunderland’s great seafaring past is still evident at now the vacant Camrex House Hotel in Tatham Street.

The Flying Angel insignia known world-wide as the symbol of the Missions to Seamen stands proud above the main doorway, providing testament of the building’s former use as the Missions’ institute, church and sailors’ home.

It was officially opened by the Marquis of Londonderry on June 13, 1927, and replaced the previous premises situated in the Exchange Building on High Street East.

In 1939, HM Customs and Excise Waterguard took delivery a new motor launch named Lapwing to replace the previous launch Penguin which had been sunk after being involved in a collision with a collier.

A share in a ten-ship order by Wear shipyards during the 1950s saw the colours of the King’s Own Scottish Border Regiment becoming well known on the river.

Three sister tankers, each of around 11,350 gross tons, constructed for the newly-established Lowland Tanker Company, sported the regiment’s tartan in their funnel design.

Border Lass, Border Reiver and Border Terrier were their names, the vessels being completed by Doxford’s, JL Thompson’s and Laing’s in 1954, 1955 and 1956, respectively.

The launch of the 9,855 gross ton Miss Chandris from Doxford’s at Pallion on March 11, 1959, was probably unique in the history of Wear shipbuilding as the vessel was launched by the youngest ever person believed to have to have done so at Sunderland.

She was 20-months-old Eugenia Chandris, daughter of the Greek shipping magnate who owned the ship.

October, 1964 saw the T-class submarine HMS Talent pay a four-day courtesy visit to Sunderland South Docks.

Commissioned in 1945, shortly before the end of the war, the submarine was open to the public.

One feature of the visit was an invitation to her crew to go beneath the North Sea – not in a submarine but to tour the subsea seams of Wearmouth Colliery.