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See inside the landmark Dalton Pumping Station as new owners unveil plans

A much-loved industrial monument which has stood empty for decades is being given new life.

Thursday, 15th October 2020, 4:52 pm

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Dalton Pumping Station in Cold Hesledon is one of East Durham’s most distinctive Victorian buildings.

During its hey day, the mighty 9,000sq foot structure, which was built from 1873-1879, would have pumped reservoir water to homes in Dalton-le-Dale, Seaham and Sunderland.

It ceased operating as a pumping station in the Second World War as domestic plumping improved and has been little used ever since. A developer bought it more than 20 years ago, but plans for a restaurant and housing never came to fruition.

The historic old Dalton Pump House is being turned into a wedding venue

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Now it’s been bought by Vikki McCarthy-Wright, who owns successful House of Mooshki bridal fashion business, and her husband Ian Wright, who owns Rufus Creative Design, who will turn the site into a licensed wedding venue.

With a view to opening in summer 2021, the Grade II-listed site will keep its historic name and as many of its gothic, Victorian features as possible.

Couples will be able to tie the knot in The Pump House itself, flanked by the impressively intact steam-powered engines before heading to a function and events space which will be created in a former workshop and coal store at the rear of the pump house, which will be called The Boiler Room.

Originally commissioned by Sunderland and South Shields Water Company, the site was created by leading 19th Century engineer Thomas Hawksley, a man whose talents also brought clean water to the area through Cleadon waterworks and Ryhope Pumping Station. These feats of engineering played a major role in improving the health of residents in the post cholera-epidemic years.

Dalton Pump House in Cold Hesledeon

Vikki says she fell in love with the history of the building as soon as she walked through the doors, and is determined to keep its character.

"I first walked through the doors in May and I was absolutely taken aback. I couldn’t believe how beautiful and intact it was,” she explained. “It’s a much-loved building in the area and I knew whatever we did with it, it would have to be something special and unique which makes the most of its original features. As I already have House of Mooshki it was a natural progression to make it a wedding venue, there’s no other events space like this in the area.

"Our dresses suit a bride who’s looking for something a little quirky, and this is certainly a venue that will be great for a couple that are looking for something different. The grand arch of the front door is crying out for a bride to walk through it. But what’s also great is that it’s a really adaptable space, it can be dressed as shabby chic or glam, it lends itself to so many different styles.”

Bookings are already open and prospective brides and grooms are already booked in to view the property – whilst knowing it is still a work in progress.

The previous owner painted the site in 2000 and the pumps are still in remarkably good condition

Vikki and Ian are liaising with Durham County Council and the conservation team on their plans for the site. Although the building is structurally sound, work needs to be done to make it safe, to improve the flooring, install heating, lighting and other facilities.

The businesswoman, who lives in Roker, said: “Some people think we’re nuts for buying this in a pandemic and a recession and it is a risk, but it’s a calculated risk. Buildings like this don’t come along very often and we have a very clear vision for it.

"And we will be keeping people updated on the progress of the site, we want them to come on the journey with us.”

As well a working with local tradespeople for renovation works, Vikki is keen to work with local suppliers and chefs for the catering side of the business once it’s up and running.

House of Mooshki MD Vikki McCarthy-Wright has taken over the Dalton Pumphouse as a wedding venue.

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This statue has been left behind and the new owners are keen to find out who it is

Thank you.

A former workshop at the rear of the Pump House will be used for functions and events and will be called The Boiler Room
The Victorian engines would have once pumped clean water to homes in the area
There was a remarkable attention to detail in its construction
Photographer Scott Spock has held a bridal fashion shoot at the location to showcase its potential