Historic building closes as owners consider future

Ashburne House, Backhouse Park, Sunderland.
Ashburne House, Backhouse Park, Sunderland.
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A HISTORIC building is to shut its doors to students after nearly 80 years.

Ashburne House in Ashbrooke, Sunderland, has been a base for education since the 1930s.

But bosses at the University of Sunderland said the Grade II-listed building is out-of-date and a consultation has begun over its future.

A spokeswoman said: “As part of our strategy to meet future academic and business needs, Ashburne House sadly now no longer meets the modern-day requirements and is due to be vacated by the end of the year, with the aim of concentrating academic activity on to the two main campuses, City Campus and Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s.

“We are continuing to look at future options for the site and last year began an extensive period of consultation with all interested parties involved, including local residents and the Friends of Backhouse Park.”

Thomas William Backhouse was the last private owner of Ashburne House.

In 1922 he gifted it to the Corporation of Sunderland - asking it be used as a teacher college or hostel - along with the surrounding Ashburne Park, now Backhouse Park.

In 1931 consent was given by representatives of Mr Backhouse for the house to be used as an Art College.

The College of Art was opened in 1934 following many internal alterations to the building, including adding and enlarging a number of windows.

It currently houses an arts and design library with a specialist collection of more than 120,000 books and other resources.

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The Backhouse family were Quaker bankers who had the house and gardens built for them.

Edward Backhouse was a philanthropist, Quaker minister and a writer on church history. He was also one of the founding fathers of the Sunderland Echo.

Backhouse became a partner in the family banking firm of Backhouse & Co, but did not take an active part in the business.

Instead, he worked as a minister for the Quaker-run Society of Friends from 1854 and was also active in establishing the Sunderland Indigent Sick Society, the British School in Borough Road and the old Athenaeum and Reformatories.