Win a stay in Sunderland's new staycation apartments in transformed Simpson Street School

The school bell may have rung for the last time half a century ago, but Simpson Street School is a prominent feature in the skyline now the new Strategic Transport Corridor is up and running, opening up this once heavily industrial area of the cityscape.

Saturday, 28th May 2022, 4:55 am

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Tens of thousands of people now pass the old Victorian school’s distinctive red brick architecture every week at the junction into Deptford. But it’s not just its Grade II-listed Gothic features that have become a new standout feature.

Inside, it’s been carefully restored and enhanced by new owners Building Design Northern (BDN) who bought the under-used site from Sunderland City Council in 2020.

It was a long road to completion on this £1million restoration project, having to navigate a pandemic as well as a fire at the site, but the old school finally turned the page on a new chapter earlier this year with the creation of new BDN headquarters in one area of the building and eight new serviced apartments across two floors in the remaining two thirds of the site.

The old Simpson Street School in Deptford now comprises building and design firm BDN's headquarters, as well as eight short-stay apartments

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As the regeneration of the city gathers pace, the apartments are set to meet the demand for more accommodation of this ilk in the city and is a really creative use of a forgotten building.

I went along for a stay, here’s what to expect:

The apartments

School may be out, but style is in at the new apartments.

The building has a more prominent position in the skyline due to the new lowered road around it

Each apartment pays homage to the heritage of the building, making the most of features such as original glazed brickwork, beams and deep window frames with new additions, such as parquet flooring, heritage blue cabinets, new mezzanine floors and 1930s-style brick tiling in the shower rooms blending in seamlessly.

I stayed at No 7, a corner apartment that’s flooded with natural light with views overlooking the city’s rapidly-changing skyline at the £500million Riverside development across to the landmark Stadium of Light.

There’s a nice touch with the artworks too which are by local artist Kathryn Robertson, who’s known for her work at the ALS building and Elephant Tearooms, including a specially-commissioned piece which features the school.

All apartments are doubles, so sleep up to two people, and have got pretty much everything you could need for a stay, with a fully-kitted-out kitchen, complete with cutlery, utensils and cooking equipment, washing machine, ironing board et al, as well as a hook for pulling down the blinds on those huge windows, smart TV and superfast WiFi.

The building has Grade II-listed status

A welcome hamper with breakfast essentials and snacks was also a great touch to make you feel at home.

Our apartment was duplex with a double bed upstairs overlooking the rest of the apartment under a high arched roof that almost feels like you’re sleeping in a New York-style loft apartment instead of the entrance to Deptford.

The apartment’s location, however, is another key feature for visitors. Slightly away from the city centre, the apartments have their own free parking while also being an easy walk to the city’s main attractions, such as Sunderland Empire, The Fire Station, City Hall and the Stadium.

On our visit we ate at the nearby Wild Fire Pizza at Ship Isis, surely one of the best pizza slingers in the North East, but there’s a lot more to choose from in easy reach, such as Mexico 70, Spent Grain and the Engine Room at the Fire Station.

Inside apartment 7

History lesson on Simpson Street School

Opened in 1867 as Deptford Yard Church of England School, the school consisted of a boys and infants department.

It was also known as The Laing Church of England School during this time but later became Simpson Street Boys Board School with a separate department for girls called Simpson Street Girls Board School in 1884, after the school came under the control of Sunderland School Board.

In 1904, responsibility passed from School Boards to Local Education Authorities and the schools became Simpson Street Boys and Girls Council Schools.

In April 1929, a new school with segregated departments was created for pupils of eleven and upwards; Deptford Terrace Senior Boys School and Deptford Terrace Senior Girls School.

The premises at Simpson Street remained as Simpson Street Junior School.

The shower room in apartment 7

From January 1943, the boys and girls departments amalgamated to form Deptford Terrace Senior Mixed School.

In July 1961, the school was closed to make way for an industrial development on the site.

The Gothic style building was protected with a Grade II listing in 1994 and was briefly used as artist studios before lying empty for some time.

Prices and booking

Simpson Street School apartments are being managed by Properties Unique, where they are available to rent for short-term stays. Prices start from £85 a night. To book a stay, visit propertiesunique.com or email [email protected]


We’ve teamed up with BDN to give away a night’s stay at Simpson Street apartments.

The prize can be claimed for a night of your choice, subject to availability. The prize needs to be claimed within six months of the prize draw and is based on up to two people sharing a double bed.

To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: whereabouts in Sunderland is Simpson Street School apartments?

A:: Downhill

B:: Deptford

C:: Doxford Park

Email your answer, along with your name and contact details to [email protected] by Monday, June 13.

Usual National World competition rules apply.

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The school bell rang for the final time in 1961
An artwork by Sunderland artist Kathryn Robertson showing the former school in the city skyline
The bedroom in apartment 7
The building had been derelict for a number of years
Old features blend with new
One of the other apartments - there's 8 in total