The Jane Gibson Almshouses Trust has been awarded a grant of £103k to repair and improve the look of its historic building beside Sunderland Minster.

Funding for the work is being provided by the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Sunderland City Council.

The Trust will use the grant to rebuild the outer rear boundary of the Grade II listed Almshouses, replacing it with a reclaimed limestone wall and repairing an internal 19th-century wall.

The planned works will reflect the historic character of the Almshouses, built in 1863 and designed by Edward Robert Robson who later became the architect for Durham Cathedral.

The almshouses were originally built to house the poor of the parish as an alternative to workhouses, and a plaque now commemorates the building’s history.

Sunderland City Council was awarded £1.9m in funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme in 2018. A further £300k from the council, plus contributions from local building owners and tenants as part of the overall regeneration of the Minster Quarter will see an expected £3m invested over the five-year scheme.

Cllr Kevin Johnston, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Dynamic City, said: “The Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme is transforming the look and feel of some of Sunderland’s most historic and iconic locations. I am delighted to see this latest grant go towards retaining another important piece of the city’s history.”

Northeast businesses Blackburn Marshall Construction and Beaumont Brown Architects will start the work next week.

Grant-aided restoration works were completed at The Peacock, The Dun Cow and Sunderland Minster Churchyard in 2020, while Minster Park was completely revitalized and shortlisted for a Northern Design Award in December.

Stuart Bain, Provost of Sunderland minster and Chair of the Jane Gibson Trust, said: “The trustees are grateful for the grant contribution which has made the works on the almshouses possible. It contributes to securing the almshouses in good structural condition for the residents and maintains this historical structure which forms a beautiful part of Minster Park.”

Ivor Crowther, Head of Investment England North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Money raised by National Lottery players has achieved an incredible amount for Sunderland’s heritage, with more than £36m invested into projects including the Fire Station, Hylton Castle and Holy Trinity Church. We’re delighted that Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme is one of those projects. This scheme is all about investing in and helping to conserve and improve one of Sunderland’s most-loved and distinctive areas.”

The works at Jane Gibson Almshouses are part of the ongoing package of city-wide public and private sector investment projects planned for Sunderland over the next five years, including £500m invested in the city centre.

Among the projects currently in progress are City Hall on the former Vaux site, with two more buildings to follow soon after; a 120-room Holiday Inn on Keel Square; a 450-seater auditorium in the city’s Minster Quarter; a business centre in the former River Wear Commissioners Building; as well the Inn Collection Group’s pub with rooms in Seaburn.

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