The Church Lane area within the Bishopwearmouth Conservation Zone has undergone a substantial revitalization, focusing on the restoration of the historically significant Grade II listed Gibson Almshouses and the building currently housing Moti Raj, Spice Empire, and No.2 Church Lane.
The Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme aims to restore buildings important to Sunderland’s heritage and improve the look and feel of the area. As part of the project Minster Park was also completely revitalised in 2020 and was shortlisted finalist for a Landscape Institute Award in November 2021.
The restoration has allowed Minster Park to become a space for events in the city centre, and it recently hosted a Family Fun Day where visitors came together to enjoy live music and activities and learn about the history of Sunderland.
Now a grant of £126,000 has been awarded to carry out repairs to the historic Almshouses, which date back to 1863, while £94,000 has been awarded to carry out repairs to the roof, chimney, render and windows of the three restaurant properties on Church Lane.
Sunderland City Council was awarded £1.9m in funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme in 2018. This, combined with contributions from the owners and tenants, will see an expected £3m invested in the Minster Quarter across the scheme as a whole.
Restoration works have already been completed at The Peacock, The Dun Cow, Sunderland Minster Churchyard and Sunderland Empire Theatre thanks to grant assistance from the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme, which is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Sunderland City Council.
Cllr Kevin Johnston, Cabinet Member for Dynamic City at Sunderland City Council said: “The Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme has already transformed some of the city’s most iconic buildings, bringing them into the 21st Century while maintaining their historic features.
“As the project continues it is really enhancing the look and feel of the Minster Quarter and ensuring that these buildings can be enjoyed by residents and visitors for many more years to come.”
Gillian Walker from the Almshouse Trust said: “The Minster Quarter is looking beautiful since Minster Park has undergone its transformation and many of the old and listed buildings in the area have been renovated and repaired, so I am absolutely delighted that the Almshouses will be among the next to receive funding from the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme.
“The funding will allow for repairs to the Almshouses sash windows, roof and stonework, preserving the buildings but also making them more energy efficient and warmer for the tenants.”
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 and helping to conserve and improve one of Sunderland’s most-loved and distinctive areas.”
North East-based contractors Blackburn Marshall, ERW, Classic Masonry and Ferguson Roofing are working on the Almshouses project which is expected to be completed by the end of October.
Works at Church Lane are being carried out by Sunderland-based builder FBS North East Ltd and both projects are being managed by Beaumont Brown Architects.
Further restoration projects are planned for this year to complete the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme, which will end in 2024.