An exciting series of free lectures at the University of Sunderland this summer will celebrate the River Wear and its impact on the city.

The lectures will range over topics such as the river’s 350 million years of geological history, the thousands of ancient artefacts discovered in its depths, postcards showing images of bygone days all along the river’s course, and a life spent working on Sunderland’s docks.

The lectures come at an important time for Sunderland and its river. 2017 marks the 300th anniversary of the foundation of the city’s port by the River Wear Commissioners. In addition, Sunderland is about to build a new bridge across its river and is due to welcome the tall ships race in 2018. 

The lectures – laid on by the Worker’s Educational Association, Wearside University of the Third Age, Sunderland Heritage Forum and the University of Sunderland – are as follows:

Weardale from Source to Mouth in Old Postcards, George Nairn 

This lecture will take the listeners on a journey down the 60-mile length of the river from Wearhead to Sunderland, using old postcards to show bygone scenes from many of the towns and villages on route. 

George Nairn, who has been collecting old postcards for over 40 years, is a well-known authority on the north east and has written several books on the region.  

George’s lecture will take place on Wednesday 10th May at 2.30 pm.

University of Sunderland to Present 350 Million Year History of the Wear
The lecture will feature old images from along the Wear’s course (photo from Tyne & Wear Archives)

The Restoration of Roker Pier and Lighthouse, Matthew Storey 

Roker Pier and Lighthouse, which were built between 1885 and 1903, were extensively renovated in 2012. This year the tunnel and lighthouse are due to open to the public for the first time. 

Matthew Storey is the coordinator of Sunderland City Council’s Roker Pier and Lighthouse Project. He is also a specialist in Anglo-Saxon history and has worked as an assistant curator at Bede’s World. 

Matthew’s lecture will take place at 2.30 pm on Wednesday 24th May.

The Durham Wear Assemblage, Gary Bankhead 

The Durham Wear Assemblage is a collection of over 9,000 medieval and post-medieval artefacts that have been found in the Wear. The Assemblage is the largest collection of such finds in the north of England. 

Gary Bankhead is the Watch Manager at Durham Fire Station and a keen diver who has discovered a number of treasures in the River Wear himself.

Gary will deliver his lecture on Wednesday 7th June at 2.30 pm.

The Geology of the River Wear, Dr Andy Lane  

Over the course of its 60-mile length, the River Wear winds through some 350 million years of geological history.  

As well as investigating rock types and structures, this lecture will be celebrating some of the magnificent scenery found along the Wear and discussing how the river has shaped the economic development of the region.

University of Sunderland to Present 350 Million Year History of the Wear
The lecture will celebrate stunning scenery along the River Wear

Andy, who has taught geology at the University of Sunderland, will be holding his lecture at 2.30 pm on Wednesday 2nd August. 

More the Work of Art than Nature, Stuart Miller 

Sunderland is more or less the creation of the River Wear Commissioners, who built the city’s harbour in 1717. This incredible challenge involved the commissioners overcoming natural and human obstacles, trying out new technologies, and pioneering harbour improvement techniques. 

Stuart, the former director of continuing education at the University of Sunderland, will deliver his lecture at 2.30 pm on Wednesday 16th August. 

My Life on the Docks, Jack Curtis

Jack’s talk will focus on his recollections of living in Sunderland’s Hudson Docks in the period around the Second World War.

 A former engineer, Jack is now a writer, poet and public speaker. He has recently completed a book about John Murray, the engineer who designed and built Sunderland’s South Dock.

Jack’s lecture will take place at 2.30 pm on Wednesday 30th August.

University of Sunderland to Present 350 Million Year History of the Wear
(Photo from the Tyne and Wear Archives)

All the lectures will be held in the Tom Cowrie Lecture Theatre, Prospect Building, St Peter’s Campus, University of Sunderland. The lectures are free and open to everyone, and there is no need to book.

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