Restoration of Sunderland's historic Elephant Tearooms set to begin

The restoration of an historic Sunderland landmark will soon begin as part of major regeneration works to preserve the city’s heritage.

Specialist local contractor NCS Ltd has been appointed by Sunderland City Council to carry out the external repair and enhancement works of the Grade II listed Elephant Tea Rooms, which will include striking new shop fronts and the reinstatement of lost decoration and features.

Constructed at the height of Victorian wealth and investment in Sunderland, the famous Elephant Tea Rooms opened to the public in April 1875 and was used as a grocer’s shop and tea warehouse for Grimshaw & Son.

Located at the corner of High Street West and Fawcett Street in the city centre, the building has a distinctive Hindu Gothic style and the upper floors still exhibit original intricate features, including ornamental elephants, oriental birds and gargoyles.

Work to begin on Elephant Tearooms

This first phase of external works, designed by Mosedale Gillatt Architects Ltd, includes the repair of delicate features and new shopfronts with intricately designed brickwork and a vaulted corner turret, inspired by the long-lost elaborate shop frontages which were removed in the 20th century when it was converted into a bank.

Supported with funding of £720,000 from Sunderland City Council, Historic England and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) through the Future High Street Fund and Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) projects, the restoration works will begin this month.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “The Elephant Tea Rooms is an architectural highlight in the city and we’re delighted restoration works will soon start. Building on the success of Mackie’s Corner, the restoration works at the Elephant Tea Rooms will play a key role as we continue reviving this area of our city centre.

“We’re fortunate to have some fantastic heritage buildings in Sunderland, and it’s vital that we protect and maintain them. As traditional craft skills are being used to preserve our heritage buildings, modern methods of construction are underway at Riverside Sunderland. The blend of old and new is really exciting to see.”

How the facade will look

Maria Carballeira, from Historic England, said: “The work on the restoration of this wonderful, iconic landmark on Sunderland’s skyline is another positive step forward. It highlights the power of using heritage to breathe new life into the city centre to generate economic, social and cultural recovery.

“As part of the Heritage Action Zone scheme, the Heritage Skills Training Programme will deliver practical training sessions and provide upskilling opportunities for contractors in traditional craft skills.”

Sean Anderson, managing director of NCS Ltd, said: “NCS was founded in Sunderland, so naturally we are really pleased and quite proud to be trusted to play our part in the delivery of this prestigious, historic and undoubtedly iconic project within the city – the site team are really keen to get started.”

The works at the Elephant Tea Rooms build on the HAZ projects already completed and underway across the city. Just opposite at Mackie’s Corner, the finishing touches to the beautiful shop fronts have recently been completed, with the installation of the granite stall risers and entrance tiles.

Works are also nearing completion at the Grade I listed Phoenix Hall and continue at 177 High Street West and 1-2 Villiers Street, bringing new life into the

city centre.