This film is part of Free

Roker: North Dock

A sketch of river life on the Wear as Sunderland’s industrial scene begins its slow decline.

Amateur film 1955 9 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


A Tyneside draughtsman engineer is absorbed in the back and forth on the River Wear in the 1950s with Sunderland’s industrial landscape on the cusp of change. The old North Dock now cradles only a few trawlers and sailing boats. In a scene little changed since the early 1900s, the bonded warehouses of Rose Line sit on Wylam Wharf next to the Bodlewell landing, from which the Wear Ferry Vint sets off to the North Quay in the last few years of its service.

In this amateur film by Ronald Torbet, ships are still unloading cargo within sight of the Wearmouth Bridge in a city built from the dockyards up. The North Dock was originally designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunell and funded by Sir Hedworth Williamson. It was already too small to cope with the expanding coal trade when it opened in 1837 and the dock was dubbed ‘Sir Hedworth’s bathtub’. Commerce dwindled when work began on the larger South Dock in 1846. The site was transformed in 1994 when it was opened as a pleasure marina by round-the-world yachtsman Chay Blyth. A thousand years of ferry service on Wearside ended on 27 July 1957 with the final 4 minute trip across the river by the W. F. Vint.