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Hidden in plain sight

April 11, 2017

 North Dock Tufa


The first site to be designated a Regionally Important Geological site (RIGS) in Tyne and Wear was the North Dock Tufa. Discovered in 1992 when the redevelopment of the old North Dock area began, the petrified dome-shaped well was found when workmen dismantled some old huts to make way for the foundations of the Marine Activities Centre as part of the marina development. The tufa can be no older than 1837 the year the blocks, to which it is attached, were laid as part of the Brunel’s North Dock.

Aerial view of North Dock, Sunderland, June 1957 before redevelopment


Conservation work was done to support the tufa (the concrete support is itself now being enclosed by the tufa) and after a slight redesign the Marine Activities Centre was built around the rock formation.


Tufa builds up over time as water, rich in calcite, runs through vegetation and roots eventually building up layers of calcium carbonate and petrifying. Sunderland’s tufa is still growing and can be seen by calling in at the Marine Activities Centre next to the marina.


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