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.
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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.
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.
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.