IN the Wear at Claxheugh Rock at South Hylton are the remains of a concrete boat, built by the Wear Concrete Building Company in 1919 when, in times of post-war shortages, the Government was encouraging innovation in ship-building.

The company launched four concrete tugs, and, amazingly, they floated. Creterock crashed into a trawler, Cretecable ran aground and Creterope was dismantled. Cretehawser, though, operated successfully until 1935 when it was turned into an emergency breakwater.

Cretehawser was hit during a Second World War air raid and so lies in the water as a remarkable “reminder of our short dabble with concrete boats”.

The story of the concrete boats is told in a new book, Secret Sunderland by Marie Gardiner.

This lovely book falls open at the stunning story of John George Lambton, to whom Penshaw Monument was dedicated in 1844. He was once asked what a good income for an Englishman was and he replied that he “might jog along comfortably on £40,000 a year”. That’s nearly £3m today, and so Lambton was known as Jog Along Jack ever more.

The book looks at a wide range of conventional stories, about glass-making, beer brewing and lightbulb inventing, but it is crammed with snippets that make Sunderland sound like an fascinatingly curious place.

The Northern Echo: