Piece of history coming back to Sunderland

Roker Pier, pictured in November while resurfacing work was being carried out.
Roker Pier, pictured in November while resurfacing work was being carried out.
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The missing pages from an album charting the history of Roker Pier’s construction will be returned to the city today.

A leather bound album, which recorded key milestones in the construction of Roker Pier was put together by the family of Henry Hay Wake, the engineer who built it in the late 1890s.

However, at some point during the last century half of the pages were cut out of the album and travelled to Australia with Henry’s granddaughter Verna, while the other half stayed behind with another of his granddaughters and are in the archives of the River Wear Commissioners.

Now, the two are to be reunited this afternoon when Carmen Higgs, the great-great-granddaughter of Henry Hay Wake, visits the city from her home in Australia for the dedication of a plaque to mark the restoration of the iconic lighthouse following the pier’s £2.15m restoration.

This is taking place at 3.30pm this afternoon, which is the 112th anniversary of the pier opening in 1903.

She is donating the missing pages from the album to Sunderland City Council so that they can be reunited with the rest of the scrapbook which is currently held by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums at the Discovery Museum.

Carmen said: “When I started researching my family history ten years ago, I never dreamed I would one day be able to walk the same paths that my ancestors did, nor that I would even see Roker Pier.

“During my visit last year I discovered that the album in the archives was missing pages and I realised that my aunt Carol Spencer had the missing pages and had been unaware that they belonged to an album. After explaining this to her, she kindly agreed to donate the missing pages to the archives to be reunited with the album, so that the history of Roker Pier and the Wakes may be preserved.”

Welcoming the donation, cabinet secretary, Councillor Mel Speding, said: “It’s wonderful to think that after all those years apart, the missing pages from this historic album are to be reunited with the original.

“We still have a little way to go before we can fully re-open the pier to the public, but we’re now at the stage where completion is in sight and working with Roker Heritage Group we hope to be able to start tours of the lighthouse and the tunnel from next summer.”

The dedication plaque will be laid by the Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Barry Curran.