Sunderland's Sheepfolds development: Opening date and progress update on £2m transformation of historic stables

The old stables at Sheepfolds, with its period features and prime riverside spot, has long been a dark horse in the city.

But the Grade II-listed building, once used to house working horses fromthe former North Eastern Railway Co, is being brought back to life spectacularly by Sunderland and Ulverston-based architecture and engineering firm Building Design Northern (BDN).

Dating back to 1883, the Victorian buildings were more recently used for car storage and had fallen into a state of disrepair, being largely forgotten about.

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Now, the stableblock and neighbouring buildings, including an old horse hospital and cart shed, are entering a new chapter.

Work is forging ahead on the £2m transformation of Sheepfolds Stables

Major works such as skilled stonemasonry, new roofs and making the buildings water tight have already taken place and further works are forging ahead, with the £2m leisure and events destination venue set to open its doors by autumn 2023.

Open seven days a week, it will house a number of food, drink and lifestyle tenants, pop-up stalls and outdoor events space with a strong pre-match offering due to its location in the shadow of the Stadium of Light.

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Footfall is set to be boosted when the new pedestrian bridge is built, which will end a stone’s throw from the stables, linking it to the major developments at the heart of the wider £500m Riverside Masterplan which is changing the face of the city.

A number of Sheepfolds tenants have already been announced:

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Progress on the Sheepfolds Stabes development include a new roof and skilled stonemasonry

:: Zinc, from the team behind Michelin Guide restaurant Route in Newcastle, will open a restaurant serving seasonal food.

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:: Speyside Distillers, an artisan distillery in Scotland’s Cairngorm Mountains, will open the city’s first Whisky Snug and cigar lounge.

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BDN operations director Ryan Doyle with RESINN's Kate Blower.
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Kate Blower, who runs RESINN with partner Erik Öhrström, moved to Sunderland from Sweden with a view to opening their own lifestyle concept store and roastery and says Sheepfolds was the perfect fit for their vision.

"This is something so different for the area,” she said. “We love the history of the building and the community of tenants, which really appealed to us.

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"We’ll be working with local people, such as a ceramist and florist. There’s so many creative makers in the area and we want to give them a forum to sell their products. We love period buildings, we’re renovating our own home in Ashbrooke, and this building has so much heritage.”

More tenants will be announced in the coming weeks. They’re being carefully curated by BDN who are passionate about bringing an exciting development to the city.

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There will also be outdoor events space

They’ve already had success in transforming the old Simpson Street School in Deptford into their headquarters, as well as eight short-stay apartments, and operations director Ryan Doyle says the same care and attention is being paid to Sheepfolds, with as much of the original period features being used as possible, from the rich blue cobblestones to old horse troughs.

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The footprint of the old stable stalls are still evident and these will be utilised in the design of some of the units to create booths.

"You just couldn’t make a building like this anymore and we’re using as much of the original detail as possible whilst bringing something completely different to the city,” said Ryan. “Our conservation director, David Hunt, has real expertise in bringing buildings back to life.

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"It will be a really multi-purpose space, people will be able to come and have a meal at Zinc, enjoy a coffee in RESINN, get some food to take away from Si King, have a whisky in the snug and enjoy pre-match entertainment. It’s a place where people will be able to come and stay for the day.”

He added: "It’s a really exciting development and you can feel the excitement in the city, people really want quality places in Sunderland.”

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Other major developments at the Sheepfolds Industrial Estate include the creation of a Housing, Innovation and Construction Skills Academy.

Progress on the Sheepfolds Stabes development.
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The multi-million pound facility aims to train local people to create innovative factory-built new homes, the first of which will be assembled as part of a new neighbourhood at Riverside Sunderland.

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BDN aim to open the development by Autumn 2023
Progress on the Sheepfolds Stabes development.
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Progress on the Sheepfolds Stabes development.
Progress on the Sheepfolds Stabes development.
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Progress on the Sheepfolds Stabes development.