Inside the eerie cells at Sunderland's Gilbridge Police Station ahead of building works to transform the site

From eerie cells with signs urging you to ‘wash your sporks’ and palm rollers for taking fingerprints to empty coffee cups and discarded newspapers dated almost a decade ago, the ghosts of its policing past are still very much present at the old Gilbridge Police Station.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 12:10 pm

After their plans were approved to turn the former police station, which has stood empty since 2015, into a multi-million pound business hub with its own gym, North East developer Hanro exchanged on the purchase of the site with current owner Sunderland City Council last month.

Ahead of building work beginning on the transformation, the Echo went for a look around the site – which is very much the Mary Celeste of police stations.

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Inside Gilbridge Police Station

Much has been left from its days as Sunderland’s main police station, with old Northumbria Police signage, piles of empty forms, fax machines and even police issue boots discarded in hallways.

Spookiest of all is the row of cells. While the main entrance desk to the block is littered with everything from Tic Tac boxes to old chess pieces, the stark cells are empty, while in the hallways there’s signs urging people to ‘Wash and reuse your sporks. They cost £1 to replace.’

Interview rooms, meanwhile, have lowered ceilings and brown carpeted walls which, at the time, were likely designed to intimidate.

At the heart of all the major works taking place in the city centre, the windows in the station’s old offices and officers’ club, complete with Northumbria Police crest carpet, give panoramic views around the city, from the new £18million Auditorium opening soon at the Fire Station to the major Riverside development, including the new £19million City Hall, on the former Vaux site and beyond.

Inside the former Gilbridge Police Station ahead of development.

Though not to everyone’s taste, the building is also architecturally significant. Opened in 1972, it’s a prime example of Brutalism, an architectural movement which has seen a comeback of late.

The 3,000 sq m building has been earmarked for development since Northumbria Police closed its doors in 2015, and Hanro was confirmed as being the preferred developer for the building last year, after a competitive bidding process. A scaled down Sunderland Central Station is now at Waterloo Place.

Hanro – which has invested in excess of £20m in Sunderland over the last three years, including the development of retail space in Trimdon Street – plans to develop a range of suites in the building from 45 sqm for rent.

The £3.5million business centre will be called The Yard and will also feature open business lounge spaces and bookable meeting rooms.

Inside the former Gilbridge Police Station ahead of development.

There are expected to be some changes to the exterior of the building and work is due to start this year, to be completed by next summer.

The exchange of the building will also mean the demolition of a former cell block at the back of the building, clearing the way for access and parking.

Planning permission was previously granted in February 2018 to change the use of the police station to a mixed commercial development called Station H, however, this consent has now lapsed.

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Inside the former Gilbridge Police Station ahead of development.
Inside the former Gilbridge Police Station ahead of development.
Inside the former Gilbridge Police Station ahead of development.
Its architecture is a prime example of Brutalism
The main reception area
Inside the former Gilbridge Police Station ahead of development.
Inside the former Gilbridge Police Station ahead of development.
Inside the former Gilbridge Police Station ahead of development.