Renovation work is underway on Sunderland’s historic Minster Churchyard and the nearby Town Park.

The works are part of a project to revitalise the city’s Minster Quarter, entitled the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme.

This scheme is backed by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Sunderland City Council. £700,000 will be invested in the renovations to the churchyard and the park, with £460,000 coming from the Lottery and £240,000 from the council.

The improvements to the Minster Quarter are part of a much bigger £1.5 billion project aiming to revitalise Sunderland. The cash will come from both the public and private sectors. The project will see £0.5 billion spent in Sunderland City Centre.

The Town Park – which was originally the centre of Bishopwearmouth village – will see the creation of a new central seating area, based on the contours of the historic streets of Little Gate and South Gate.

The park will also be enhanced with new granite paving, better lighting and new steps leading to Low Row. An interpretation panel will explain the importance of the medieval settlement that once stood on the site.

Work will also be done on the south and east boundary walls of Sunderland Minster Churchyard. These renovations will include rebuilding unstable sections of the walls, repointing in traditional lime, and replacing modern railings with traditional cast iron railings that will match the surviving historic metalwork.

In addition, it was recently revealed that – as part of the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme – Sunderland City Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund would help fund the restoration of two historic pubs: the Peacock and the Dun Cow.

The council’s cabinet member for housing and regeneration, Cllr Rebecca Atkinson, said, “The Town Park has been a hidden gem and these works are going to make it shine more brightly and see it enjoyed by more people.”

“The parks works are complementing the Minster works, we have seen the recent announcements about the Peacock and the Dun Cow, and there is more good news to come about this historic part of our city.”

The council’s deputy cabinet member for housing and regeneration, Cllr Kevin Johnston, said, “When we add Bishopwearmouth to the bigger picture, we see how this City Council continues to work with local groups, with developers and with national organisations, such as the National Lottery, to leverage more improvements and more investment into our city.”

“We have a strong track record of working with our partners and, as well as improving our city scape for residents and visitors, it all helps attract further investment from businesses.”

In total, the National Lottery Heritage Fund has made £1.9 million available for the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme. As well as financing the improvements to the park and churchyard, the scheme is making grants available to property owners in the area who need to rebuild or repair their historic buildings.

The Head of Investment England North at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Ivor Crowther, said, “Money raised by National Lottery players has achieved an incredible amount for Sunderland’s heritage, with more than £36 million 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.”

(The featured image shows how the Town Park should look following the renovation work.)

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