Building students given sneak peek of Sunderland’s Old Fire Station

Keepmoats Stewart Barraclough (front left) and Paul Robson from Classic Masonry (front middle) show Clare Gothard (front right) from Sunderland Council how to chamfer a stone block
Keepmoats Stewart Barraclough (front left) and Paul Robson from Classic Masonry (front middle) show Clare Gothard (front right) from Sunderland Council how to chamfer a stone block
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Students with a burning ambition to work in the building trade were given an insight into the industry with workshops held at the Old Fire Station development.

Work is ongoing at the once derelict building off High Street West to transform it into a £3.6million arts and culture centre, with financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Joseph Rennison from Houghton Kepier School tries his hand at stone masonry

Joseph Rennison from Houghton Kepier School tries his hand at stone masonry

The 110-year-old building is being revamped into a restaurant, cafe, heritage centre and dance and drama studios due to open later in the year.

As building work progresses, four building sessions were hosted with participants including students from Houghton Kepier School and Sunderland and Newcastle Colleges.

Ian Smithwhite, senior conservation Ooficer at Sunderland City Council, has been working with Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust, the organisation behind the transformation, and builder Keepmoat to deliver the sessions.

He said: “We wanted to give anyone interested the opportunity to see the skills involved in the transformation of The Fire Station, and the level of detail needed to make sure the job is done properly.

“We organised four sessions covering the work and skills of a stone mason, lead work, traditional slate roofing and traditional window glazing, all of which are being employed at The Fire Station.”

Keepmoat site managers James McCourt and Stewart Barraclough oversaw the sessions, which were led by Ian and subcontractors Classic Masonry, Springs Roofing and North Eastern Glass.

Helen Green, director of the Fire Station, added: “It was great to be able to show the traditional skills involved and those who attended enjoyed having a go at chiselling a shape into the stone, cutting roof slates to fit and watching the glazers at work.

“The redevelopment respects the iconic architecture of the original Edwardian building and so we had to use specialist skills in its transformation.

“The building work is well on, and the new fire station is starting to emerge from the old. It’s such a wonderful building and will be a real asset to the city once it’s opened and established as a hub for artistic and cultural activity.”

The Fire Station development is part of MAC Trust’s transformation of the area.

The first phase was the award-winning renovation of the historic Dun Cow pub, and another stage was the successful renovation of the Londonderry pub, which reopened as The Peacock earlier this year.

The fourth stage of the MAC’s cultural quarter will be the construction of a new £8.2m auditorium for music, dance and drama adjacent to The Fire Station. Arts Council England has awarded £6m towards the cost of the work, which will begin later this year and be finished in 2019.