The Rabbit bar in Sunderland set for makeover after £129,000 heritage grant

One of the city centre’s busiest bars is set for a makeover after receiving a major heritage grant.

Monday, 21st March 2022, 1:21 pm

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Grade II-listed The Rabbit, at the bottom of High Street West, is the latest in the area to receive funding to improve its appearance.

The building dates from the early 19th century and is one of a number of listed buildings around High Street West to receive grant assistance since 2018, with the aim of restoring historic features and enhancing the look and feel of the area.

A grant of £129,000 has been awarded to carry out extensive repairs and improvement works to the historic building. Funding is being provided by the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Sunderland City Council.

The Rabbit is one of Sunderland's busiest bars

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The Rabbit’s owner, Theatre Leisure Ltd, will use the grant to reinstate a traditional style shopfront, replace the first-floor windows, and carry out repairs to the masonry roof and chimneys.

North East businesses MGM Ltd, Hastie Burton Joinery and Ainsworth Spark Associates Architects are set to begin work today, March 21, with the project expected to be complete by late May.

Sunderland City Council was awarded £1.9m in funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme in 2018. This combined with contributions from the owners and tenants will see an expected £3m invested in the Minster Quarter through the five-year scheme.

Cllr Kevin Johnston, Cabinet Member for Dynamic City at Sunderland City Council said: “The Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme is transforming the look and feel of some of Sunderland’s most historic and iconic locations. I am delighted to see this latest grant go towards retaining and enhancing another important piece of the city’s history.”

The building is Grade II-listed

Grant aided restoration works have already been completed at The Peacock, The Dun Cow, Sunderland Minster Churchyard and the rear wall of the Gibson Almshouses. In addition, Minster Park was completely revitalised in 2020 and was a shortlisted finalist for a Landscape Institute Award in November 2021. Further restoration projects are planned for 2022-23, including the Victoria Buildings on Low Row, home to Streetbar and Victoria’s Loft, also managed by Theatre Leisure Ltd.

Lee Robson, Director of Theatre Leisure, said: “We have two buildings which are the gateway to the new Minister quarter development, and we are excited to take part in the regeneration project. We have had excellent feedback from our customers, and we would like to thank the national lottery heritage fund and Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage scheme for considering local independent businesses such as ourselves.”

Ivor Crowther, Head of Investment England North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: "Money raised by National Lottery players has achieved an incredible amount for Sunderland’s heritage, with more than £36m invested into projects including the Fire Station, Hylton Castle and Holy Trinity Church. We’re delighted that Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme is one of those projects. This scheme is all about investing and helping to conserve and improve one of Sunderland's most-loved and distinctive areas."The works at The Rabbit are part of the ongoing package of city-wide public and private sector investment projects planned for Sunderland, including £500m invested in the city centre.

Among the completed projects are City Hall on the former Vaux site and the new 450-seater auditorium at The Fire Station which opened in December 2021. Plans have also been submitted for the new Culture House on High Street West, next to the new Holiday Inn hotel which is nearing completion.

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