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Roker beach. - - 510809.jpg
Roker beach
Tyne and Wear UK location map.svg
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Location within Tyne and Wear
OS grid reference NZ405595
Metropolitan borough
Metropolitan county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district SR6
Dialling code 0191
Police Northumbria
Fire Tyne and Wear
Ambulance North East
UK Parliament
List of places
Tyne and Wear
54°55′23″N1°21′58″W / 54.923°N 1.366°W / 54.923; -1.366 Coordinates: 54°55′23″N1°21′58″W / 54.923°N 1.366°W / 54.923; -1.366

Roker ( /ˈrkər/ ) is a tourist resort and affluent area of Sunderland, North East England, bounded on the south by the River Wear and Monkwearmouth, on the east by the North Sea, to the west by Fulwell and on the north by Seaburn. It is administered as part of the City of Sunderland and lies within historic County Durham.


The majority of the houses in Roker are terraced or semi-detached. Further west, to the part bordering Fulwell, are cul-de-sacs with semi-detached bungalows, these being owned mainly by members of Roker's sizeable elderly population. On Roker Terrace (Roker's main street) are exclusive apartments and hotels which overlook the seafront.

In addition to Seaburn seafront, the coast at Roker seafront plays host to Sunderland International Airshow, the biggest free airshow in Europe, which takes place each year, usually over the last weekend in July.


Roker and Seaburn, 1970 Roker and Seaburn, 18th June 1970.jpg
Roker and Seaburn, 1970

The story of Roker begins in 1587, when the Abbs family were granted land on the north side of the River Wear on the condition that they provided six soldiers to defend the mouth of the river. Fast forward to 1840, when Roker Terrace was built upon the cliff tops, along with Monkwearmouth baths and Roker Park soon after. The pier and lower promenade were built six years later. In 1898 Roker Park Stadium was built and Roker became known worldwide for being home to Sunderland A.F.C.. The stadium was used for ninety-nine years until 1997. In the early 20th century Roker became a hugely popular resort for locals and tourists alike, and in 1928 it was taken over by the Borough of Sunderland, along with Fulwell and Seaburn.

Roker Pier (the North Pier) Roker Pier.jpg
Roker Pier (the North Pier)

In 1995 Roker Park Conservation Area was declared. [1]


St Andrew's Church (1905–07) is recognised as one of the finest churches of the first half of the twentieth century and the masterpiece of Edward Schroeder Prior.

One well-known landmark of sorts in Roker is the Bungalow Cafe, which is an old-fashioned café in a tiny bungalow on the upper promenade. Also famous is the signpost next to the café, marked: "To Beach" (pointing towards the beach), "To Village" (pointing into Roker), "To Bungalow" (pointing to the cafe), and "To Germany" (pointing out to sea).

A museum is located in the Roker Watch House which was originally opened in 1906 as the headquarters of the Roker Volunteer Life Brigade. It is open every Sunday afternoon and on Bank Holiday Mondays. [2]

Other nearby landmarks are the statue of Bede's cross on the cliff top near Roker Park and St Peter's Church, Monkwearmouth. The cross recognises the work of the Venerable Bede, who worked in the North-East all his life at the twin monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow. There is bid for the twin monasteries to gain World Heritage Site status.

Lighthouses and pier

The lighthouse from the Old South Pier was removed to Roker seafront in 1983. Designed by Thomas Meik, it dates from 1856 Sunderland south lighthouse. - - 496545.jpg
The lighthouse from the Old South Pier was removed to Roker seafront in 1983. Designed by Thomas Meik, it dates from 1856

From 1717 the newly formed River Wear Commission began to improve the harbour entrance at the mouth of the Wear. By 1750 a pair of breakwaters had been built (which survive in truncated form as the 'Old' North and South Piers).

By the beginning of the next century each had a lighthouse at its end. (The lighthouse which stands today in Roker Cliff Park originally stood on the Old South Pier; it was deactivated in 1903 and removed eighty years later.) [3]

With the growth of Sunderland as a port, it was decided to improve the approach to the river by creating an outer harbour, protected by a new pair of new breakwaters curving out into the North Sea from the shore on each side. The new piers were the brainchild of Henry Hay Wake, who at the age of 25 had been appointed Chief Engineer to the River Wear Commission (in succession to Thomas Meik) in 1868. [4] The foundation stone for the New North Pier (Roker Pier) was laid on 14 September 1885. Applauded at the time as a triumph of engineering, the 1,198 ft (365 m) pier is built of granite-faced concrete blocks, which were loaded onto wagons at River Weir Works by a Goliath crane and unloaded and placed at the end of the pier by a Titan crane.

The opposite 'New South Pier' was begun at around the same time but never fully completed due to the start of the First World War; the twin lighthouse planned for its end was never built.

Roker Pier Lighthouse

Roker Pier lighthouse
Roker North pier lighthouse. - - 496521.jpg
Location Roker, City of Sunderland, United Kingdom OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Coordinates 54°55′17″N1°21′09″W / 54.921263°N 1.352550°W / 54.921263; -1.352550
Constructionwhite and red granite tower
Tower height23 metres (75 ft)
Tower shapetapered cylindrical tower with balcony and lantern
Markingswhite and red band tower, white lantern room, black lantern roof
OperatorPort of Sunderland [5]
Heritage Grade II listed
Focal height25 metres (82 ft)
Lens3rd order rotating catadioptric (original), LED (current)
Range23 nmi (43 km; 26 mi)
Characteristic Fl W 20s.
Admiralty no.A2681
NGA no.2084
Fog signal 1 blast every 20s.
ARLHS no.ENG-116

The lighthouse at the pier head was completed in 1903. Its distinctive stripes are of naturally coloured red and white Aberdeen granite. When built it was said to be Britain's most powerful port lighthouse. Equipped with a third-order rotating catadioptric optic (consisting of a single-panel Fresnel lens backed by a prismatic mirror), it displayed a single flash every five seconds. [6] The lighthouse had initially (like its predecessors) been lit by gas from the town mains, but the supply to the end of the pier was found to be intermittent so the gas light was soon replaced by a Chance Brothers incandescent petroleum vapour mantle lamp. [7] This increased the effective intensity of the light from 40,000 to 150,000 candle power, to give it a range of 15 nautical miles (28 km; 17 mi).

A fog siren was also provided, powered by compressed air from a pair of 7-horsepower gas engines located in the basement. It gave a two-second blast every twenty seconds in foggy weather from a sounder on the parapet, which was regulated by clockwork. [7]

The light was semi-automated in 1936 when a new light system was installed by AGA. [8] The main lamp was a 750-watt incandescent light bulb, with a gas mantle lamp (fed from the town supply) provided as a stand-by, activated by an automatic lamp changer; and a small electric motor automatically wound the clockwork which rotated the lens. [9]

Full automation followed in 1972, when the old optic was replaced by two back-to-back arrays of six sealed beam units mounted on an AGA gearless rotating pedestal, to give the light an increased range of 23 nautical miles (43 km; 26 mi); a new fog horn was also provided at the same time. [8] The system was supervised remotely from the Pilot House on the Old North Pier. Subsequent to its removal the 1903 optic was added to the maritime collection of Sunderland Museum and Art Gallery. [10]

In 2007 the lighting system was again replaced with a dual-drive Pelangi PRL400 rotating pedestal and lamp. [11]

Roker Pier Lighthouse still functions today. Both pier and lighthouse have undergone significant refurbishment in recent years. [12] In 2012, as part of the restoration, a new flashing LED lamp array was installed, replacing the small Pelangi unit previously in use. [11] In 2018, following a comprehensive six-year process of refurbishment, the lighthouse was opened to the public for the first time; regular guided tours now take place, with access provided by way of the tunnel which runs the length of the pier. [13]


The population of Roker is approximately 4,600. Since the redevelopment of former brownfield areas of heavy industry into affluent riverside housing areas, and the founding of the St Peters Campus of the University of Sunderland to the immediate south of the area, Roker has undergone rapid demographic change. The first of these two changes brought a large influx of professional and managerial workers into the areas now known as St Peters Riverside and North Haven. The arrival of the university campus has seen a large number of the larger houses in the vicinity of Roker Avenue being converted into flats and student residences. The pursuant studentification has brought a substantial Chinese community into the area for the first time, along with a variety of other nationalities

Along with the district of Monkwearmouth, Roker forms the St Peter's electoral ward on Sunderland City Council, which is a division of the Sunderland Central parliamentary seat. St Peter's ward was a safe Conservative ward in the 1980s, but became a battleground between the Conservatives and Labour in the 1990s and has remained as such ever since. [14] Of the wards three council seats, Labour currently hold two and the Conservatives hold one.

Streetname traditions

On the site of Sunderland AFC's former stadium is a small housing estate, its street names all being references to the football club (Clockstand Close, Goalmouth Close, etc.). The streets in between Roker Baths Road and Roker Avenue are all named after members of William Ewart Gladstone's cabinet (Gladstone, Hartington, Forster, Bright, Stansfield, and so on).

Related Research Articles

Sunderland Human settlement in England

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Seaham Human settlement in England

Seaham is a seaside town in County Durham, England. Located on the Durham Coast, Seaham is situated 6 miles south of Sunderland and 13 miles (21 km) east of Durham. The town grew from the late 19th century onwards as a result of investments in its harbour and coal mines. The town is twinned with the German town of Gerlingen.

Seaburn Human settlement in England

Seaburn is a seaside resort and northeastern suburb of Sunderland, North East England. Seaburn lies within historic County Durham. The village of Whitburn borders the area to the north. To the west and south-west is Fulwell and to the south the coastal resort of Roker.

Roker Park

Roker Park was an English football stadium situated in Roker, Sunderland. The stadium was the seventh home of the English football club Sunderland A.F.C. from 1898 to 1997 before the club moved to the Stadium of Light. Near the end of the stadium's history, its capacity was around 22,500 with only a small part of the stadium being seated. The stadium's capacity had been higher in previous years, attracting a record crowd of 75,118.

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  1. "Sunderland City Council" . Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  2. Suggitt, Paul. "Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade - Saving Lives Since 1877". Archived from the original on 23 September 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  3. Jones, Robin (2014). Lighthouses of the North East Coast. Wellington, Somerset: Halsgrove.
  4. "Historical Timeline". Roker Pier. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  5. Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of Northeastern England". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  6. Encyclopaedia Britannica vol. 16 p.672
  7. 1 2 Fowler, A. F. (1905). "The Evolution of Harbour Engineering". Transactions of the Liverpool Engineering Society. 26: 235–246.
  8. 1 2 "People, Ports and Places". The Dock and Harbour Authority. 57 (672): 271. November 1976.
  9. Shears, William Sydney (1952). Travel and invention in the modern world. London: Virtue & Co. p. 206.
  10. Heal, Veryan (1988). Britain's Maritime Heritage. Conway Maritime Press. p. 117.
  11. 1 2 Jones, Robin (2014). Lighthouses of the North East Coast. Wellington, Somerset: Halsgrove. pp. 74–81. ISBN   978-0-85704-234-7.
  12. "Northern Archaeological Associates".
  13. "Welcome to Roker Pier". Roker Pier. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  14. Rallings, Colin (2012). "Sunderland City Council Election Results, 1973-2012" (PDF). Retrieved 9 April 2017.