Arson-hit historic Sunderland manor house to become family home once more

Doxford House, Warden Law Lane, Sunderland.
Doxford House, Warden Law Lane, Sunderland.
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A HISTORIC manor house on the at-risk register is to be transformed back into a family home.

Grade II-listed Doxford House has previously been used as a drug rehabilitation centre, and in recent years it has been earmarked for redevelopment as a boutique and health spa.

Now, its new owners aim to turn the building back into a house, and its 1960s extension has already been cleared to make way for the work required, should Sunderland City Council approve plans.

In addition to the change of use into a home, the application asks for permission to replace its conservatory and create an extension housing a swimming pool and roof terrace, as well as setting up a water feature outside and installing new gates in Warden Law Lane.

A new driveway to a detached garage is planned too.

There are also plans to build another house with a garage in the property’s grounds.

The scheme would see the building – empty for over five years and a target for vandals, thieves and arsonists – restored to its former glory. First known as Silksworth House, it was built within Silksworth Hall’s manorial land in 1750.

The Renaissance-style building was previously owned by the Beckwith family, who put their coat of arms on show and linked a long hall to their new baroque entrance.

In 1902, it was bought by Charles and Laura Doxford, the shipyard-owning family, who demolished a wing to the north to reduce the size of the property and added a water feature inside a conservatory, which replaced the Beckwiths’ entrance hall.

In the 1960s, the couple’s daughter Aline left the house and its gardens to the Sunderland Corporation, and it was given its current title and the land was renamed Doxford Park.

The house was listed in 1949 and was included in the Silksworth conservation area in 1970.

It is now on English Heritage’s buildings at risk register, which states that it has become a target for vandalism and its leaking roof has caused damage inside.

It has been empty since around 2006, after the Lazarus Foundation, a drug and alcohol charity which took it on in the 1990s, moved to Mary Street.

There had been interest from a developer who was considering turning it into a hotel, and there has also been a suggestion that it could be turned into apartments.

Since it was bought by its new owners, a host of extra security measures have been put in place to keep out troublemakers, and work has already been carried out to preserve the building.

The owners also plan to carry out a range of repairs and replace doors, windows, cornicing and other features.

As part of the project, the couple developing the site as their home, with the help of Napper architects, have held consultation sessions with residents from the area, including the Friends of Silksworth group.

They have also launched, which features photographs of the building and will update people on the work.