The Watch House Museum

    The Roker Watch House opened in 1906 as the headquarters of the then Roker Volunteer Life Brigade; the Sunderland VLB then being stationed south of the river Wear.Originally there were two divisions to the Sunderland VLB with bases at the north and south of the river Wear. They became seprarte organisations in the late 19th century. The South Brigade closed in 1958 and the Roker Brigade took over its duties and was renamed the Sunderland VLB.

    Two areas of the building are open for people to visit; these are the main hall and the 'Captains Cabin' which is the room at the Southern end of the building. Special exhibitions are set up to commemorate key events.

    The Main Hall

    The main hall holds most of the displays that show the rich history of the Brigade, dating back to its founding in 1877. Some of the items were originally in the south side Watch House and were moved here after it closed.

    The Captains Cabin

    This smaller room was originally built as a bunk room. The walls were lined with approximately 20 bunks so that shipwrecked seamen or passengers could be accomodated overnight. There are many instances recorded of this, including one where the Brigadesmen went knocking on the doors of local houses to ask for food for those housed there. Most people rescued were cold and wet and had lost all of their possessions. A store of good, clean clothes was kept available for them to use. A large stove in the main hall meant that hot drinks and meals could be prepared. This room contains much of the artwork and photography relating to the Brigade as well as several model ships.

    The Museum has a designated childrens activity area. Free activities include colouring and drawing, dressing up, using the Morse key and phonetic alphabet. There are also craft activities such as badge and mask making available for a small fee. We have a childrens area in the shop too which has a range of toys and souvenirs. All profits from sales go directly to Brigade funds. A guide to the Museum is on sale at £1.00 and a published book that comprehensively covers the history of the Brigade is also available at £12.99 – all profits from sales go to Brigade funds. The Watch House can be opened, by arrangement, at other times for group tours and educational visits and the museum volunteers are happy to give talks on the brigade’s history.

    The Watch House is open to the public every Sunday afternoon from 12 noon to 4pm as well as Bank Holiday Mondays. Entrance is free.

    The Museum are currently recruiting new members, for more information please fill in our enquiry form on the contact us page, or email Mathew Gleghorn on


    Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade:::The Watch House, Pier View, Roker, Sunderland. SR6 0PR

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