Culture chiefs are poised to appoint a team of workers to redevelop an iconic Wearside site, should a cash windfall be agreed.
Sunderland City Council has applied for about £2.919million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to redevelop Hylton Castle, with a decision expected next week.
Hylton Castle is not only a significant building architecturally, it is also a much loved part of the social history of the local community and indeed the while of Sunderland.Sunderland City Council
The council has also pledged to support the project with a further £1.5million.
So that work can begin immediately should the funds be agreed by the charity, the council has authorised the executive director of its people services to appoint a contractor who will carry out the work.
If the cash is granted, the project will see classrooms, interactive exhibitions, visitor facilities and flexible events spaces set up on the site, offering “skills that will last a lifetime”.
It would create a “flagship heritage attraction” offering support to young people, training and apprenticeship programmes, bring in tourists and offer hospitality. It will also see volunteers recruited and people given a chance to have a say in how the site is run.
It is one of Sunderland’s “oldest and most significant heritage assets” and was built in the last 1380s to 1400s by Sir William Hylton, as his family’s main residence.
The rich family had estates in Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland, with the Sunderland home intended to reflect their status, with an impressive gatehouse tower, which is now the only part still standing, with no roof or internal structures.
It is on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register and shows the “scars and evidence” of more than 600 years of change and development.
Papers put before the council states: “Hylton Castle is not only a significant building architecturally, it is also a much-loved part of the social history of the local community and indeed the whole of Sunderland.
“The story of its development is also the story of Sunderland. It is a major landmark for local people.
“There is an enormous potential to bring Hylton Castle back into everyday use, not just as a landmark, but as a focal point of the community and the North East.
“The redevelopment, conservation and rejuvenation of the castle will create a dynamic, engaging and valued cultural and heritage asset, placing Hylton again at the local community and the city as whole.”
The total costs of the project, including staff and running costs, for the first five years of the project, should it go ahead, are estimated at £4.119million.
Money raised through a trust and foundation applications and other operational income will support its ongoing running costs.
No work will begin on the site unless the council is given positive news on is grant bid.