How Roker pier vandals were beaten by Victorian brilliance and community endeavour

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There’s a certain irony in news that the tours planned for the newly restored Roker pier are ‘weather dependent.’

When this magnificent structure and lighthouse was in its full glory, there were no elements could stop it performing.

In the most severe of weather conditions, the lighthouse keeper would run the length of the underground tunnel joining the lighthouse to the shore to ensure that ships were warned off danger.

Unfortunately, where the high winds and driving rain failed, the vandals succeeded - albeit many decades later.

As Phil Tweddell, grandson of former lighthouse keeper William Emmerson, tells us, the age of fully-automated lighthouses marked the beginning of the landmark’s decline.

It was hailed as a triumph of Victorian architecture in the early 1900s, but it suffered in its later years from the scourge of our society.

Roker Pier tunnel and lighthouse tours following restoration work 'Coun Rebbecca Atkinson, Chair of Roker Heritage Group Phil Twedell and Head of Heritage Lotery Fund Ivor Crowther

Roker Pier tunnel and lighthouse tours following restoration work 'Coun Rebbecca Atkinson, Chair of Roker Heritage Group Phil Twedell and Head of Heritage Lotery Fund Ivor Crowther

Vandals tore the place apart, stripping the building off all its original features until, after many years, it was just a shell and a shadow of its former self.

But the last word has gone to the community who, with the help of the council and lottery funding, have turned the Roker pier and lighthouse into a heritage jewel.

The £2.5million Heritage Lottery Fund-backed restoration is a triumph.

The lantern house has been lovingly restored, the tunnel reopened and refurbished and the whole structure now open to the public.

Coun Rebecca Atkinson, Phil Tweddell and Ivor Crowther at the new entrance

Coun Rebecca Atkinson, Phil Tweddell and Ivor Crowther at the new entrance

Ivor Crowther, of the Heritage Lottery Fund, is right when he says heritage doesn’t have to be dusty - and that it’s the people who bring it alive.

The vandals have been knocked into a cocked hat and, at 115 years old, Roker pier and lighthouse is reborn as a shining light in the community’s heritage trail... weather permitting, naturally.