See inside new Minster Park as it opens in historic corner of Sunderland city centre

An oft-forgotten corner of the city centre has been brought to life spectacularly with the opening of the new Minster Park.

Thursday, 27th August 2020, 4:18 pm

The old Town Park, next to Sunderland Minster, was a little-used area of the city in recent decades, despite its rich heritage as the heart of Bishopwearmouth, one of the three original settlements that came together to form Sunderland.

But today, Thursday, August 27, a year to the day since ground was broken on the project, its new look as Minster Park has been unveiled following a year-long programme of improvement works to transform Sunderland Minster and the land to the south of it.

The opening marked the completion of this section of the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme, a project which has also seen repair works made to Sunderland Minster churchyard, as well as the Dun Cow and Peacock pubs.

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Opening of Sunderland Minster Park. From left Sunderland Council Project Officer Judith Miller, Cllr Rebecca Atkinson, Sunderland Council Landscape Architect Phil Dorian, Canon Provost Sunderland Minster Stuart Bain and BCE Northern Ltd MD Adrian Barton

Sunderland City Council was awarded a £1.9million National Lottery Grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund to help preserve and enhance the historic features of this corner of the city.

The park aims to attract more people to the area with a programme of events planned, whilst also celebrating its unique heritage.

Stone walls, using stones from old buildings in Sheepfolds Industrial Estate, have been built in the foot print of 17th century cottages which once formed streets in the village.

Original stone street signs, naming Little Gate and South Gate, as well as an old sign from nearby almshouses which once stood in the area, have been built into the walls.

Opening of Sunderland Minster Park with Cllr Rebecca Atkinson and Canon Provost Sunderland Minster Stuart Bain

Speaking about the finished project, The Revd Canon Stuart Bain, Provost of Sunderland Minster, said: “I think it’s beautiful, it’s now the kind of space people will want to come and sit, it’s wonderful.

"This has always been a special place because of its history, but before it was a bit lifeless and soulless. The garden has really brought soul to the space. It means we can bring the Minster out into the garden too, and I can very much see this space being used for open air services and music. It means the area can really meet its potential. I can’t thank the local authority and Heritage Lottery Fund enough, as we couldn’t have afforded to do this ourselves.”

Councillor Rebecca Atkinson, Cabinet Member for Dynamic City at Sunderland City Council, said: “I think the creation of this space really helps people to appreciate the Minster. All too often, we walk along with our heads forward and don’t look up and admire the buildings here.

"But this space makes you look up and appreciate the skyline we have here: the Minster, the Empire, the Dun Cow and Peacock. It makes you appreciate what we’ve got, the journey we’ve been on, and what’s happening in the future.”

The old Town Park has been reopened as Minster Park

The next stage of the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme will see improvement works to buildings opposite the Minster, including The Rabbit pub and Empire Box Office.

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Opening of Sunderland Minster Park with Cllr Rebecca Atkinson and Canon Provost Sunderland Minster Stuart Bain
The new walls feature old signs from a village which once stood on the site.