Sunderland lighthouse restoration set to remove historic landmark it from 'at risk' register

Seaburn's white lighthouse, designed by Thomas Meik, during the Sunderland Airshow.
Seaburn's white lighthouse, designed by Thomas Meik, during the Sunderland Airshow.
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A historic Sunderland landmark is set to be removed from English Heritage's 'at risk' register as part of a scheme which will see it restored to its former glory.

Plans to repair and restore Seaburn's white lighthouse, designed by engineer Thomas Meik, are included in the latest £1.6million phase of Sunderland City Council's ongoing regeneration of the seafront.

South Pier, Seaburn, in July, 1883.

South Pier, Seaburn, in July, 1883.

The lighthouse, which was built in 1856, originally stood at the entrance to Sunderland’s South Pier but was moved to Cliffe Park in 1983 to allow for harbour improvements.

Structural issues were identified by the authority in December 2014, resulted in the Grade II* listed landmark being placed on Historic England's at risk register.

Now a comprehensive programme of repair and restoration is planned.

The work will see new flooring, restoration of the building's wrought iron features and repairs to the staircase and windows, as well as internal and external painting, funded through the council's capital projects programme.

Seaburn's white lighthouse, designed by Thomas Meik. Pictured in 1981.

Seaburn's white lighthouse, designed by Thomas Meik. Pictured in 1981.

The restoration will start after Sunderland International Airshow and be completed in the autumn.

It is hoped the works will result in the structure being taken off the at risk register.

It will also see both the lighthouse and the nearby landmark, Bede's Cross, lit up with feature lighting, with the help of funding from the Coastal Communities Fund.

Further work is also underway to maximise the use of Cliffe Park and Recreation Park for events and make them more accessible with new planting, seating and footpaths.

Other regeneration projects planned for the seafront include improvements to the toilet blocks:

• New public toilets at the former Seaburn Shelter to include Disabled Changing Place Facilities (due to open in June)

• Proposals to repair and reopen Tram Shelter toilet blocks at Seaburn (for Summer 2017)

• New toilet block to be built at Marine Walk, Roker to include Disabled Changing Place Facilities (work due to begin in Autumn 2016 with completion by the end of the year).

Works will also be completed this year on the restoration of the Grade II Roker Pier and Lighthouse. New railings will be installed on the pier and the tunnel entrance building will be constructed allowing the tours to commence in Autumn this year.

Cabinet Secretary, Councillor Mel Speding, said: "The white lighthouse at Seaburn has a very special place in people's hearts as one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city.

"Every summer it forms the perfect backdrop for the Red Arrows as they carry out their heart-stopping aerobatics at the Sunderland Airshow, not to mention more recently providing the perfect setting for the beacon lit to celebrate Her Majesty, The Queen's 90th Birthday.

"It's also a really important grade II* listed building so I'm delighted that we've been able to find the money to secure its future and take it off the at risk register. We're also really pleased about being able to use Coastal Communities Funding to light both it and Bede's Cross and to carry out improvements to make Cliffe Park and Recreation Park more accessible for events.

"We know that toilets are also really important to people visiting the seaside which is why we're spending £0.5m on improving and upgrading facilities at both Roker and Seaburn. This includes two much needed disabled changing place facilities which will mean more people can come and visit our fabulous coastline and spend longer there."

This latest investment will bring the total amount spent on the seafront to £10m since 2010.

White Lighthouse Fact file:

• Built in 1856 in response to complaints from ships navigators about access to the port

• Constructed from cast and wrought iron

• Features include an intricate cast iron spiral staircase and oriel window

• Its once powerful lantern is now in Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

• The lighthouse was moved from the Old South Pier in 1983

• It remains an important landmark and iconic structure of Sunderland’s maritime heritage

• It was built by River Wear Commissioners Engineer Thomas Meik, one of the finest port engineers of his generation