Dun Deal! Historic Sunderland pub bought as part of multi-million pound cultural project

John Mowbray, Marie Nixon, and Paul Callaghan in the Dun Cow, High Street West, Sunderland.
John Mowbray, Marie Nixon, and Paul Callaghan in the Dun Cow, High Street West, Sunderland.
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A HISTORIC pub will be brought back to its former glory as part of a multi-million pound project to create a cultural hub in Sunderland city centre.

The Dun Cow, which went up for sale in February for £220,000, has been bought on behalf of the Sunderland Mac Trust, as the first phase of its ambitious plans to turn the adjacent old Sunderland fire station into a centre for music, arts and culture.

The trust, set up two years ago to boost the city’s cultural activity, hopes to get funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to transform the fire station, which has stood empty for more than two decades.

According to the trust’s website, the plan is to transform the former fire station into a music and arts hub with performance spaces and an auditorium.

It is also hoped it will become an important educational centre for children using music, drama and art to stimulate young minds and nurture the creative and talented young people the trust say the city needs.

Work has begun to restore The Dun Cow, in High Street West, which is nationally famous for its carved wooden bar decorated with delicate Art Nouveau-style woodcarving and plaster reliefs.

Its Edwardian features, which have remained largely untouched, have earned it a ranking in Camra’s list of outstanding historical pubs.

John Mowbray, trust member with the Mac Trust, which stands for music, arts and culture, says the pub has a significant role to play in Sunderland’s cultural future.

“The aim is to create a cultural hub around the Edwardian Quarter which incorporates the Sunderland Empire, The Dun Cow and the old fire station, all of which were built between 1900 and 1910,” he explained.

The pub will now be closed for about three months as the roof is repaired and restorations are made to its period features.

Once open, it will be a traditional pub as well as a venue for music and comedy, with plans in place to use its upstairs rooms.

The Mac Trust will find out if its bid has been successful in October.

John added: “The Dun Cow is right in the centre of where we want the cultural quarter to be.

“We didn’t want it to be bought and made into something that didn’t fit in the area.

“If you look at this Edwardian district, it sits in the middle of the retail area, the Vaux business district and the university developments – it’s crying out to be a cultural quarter.”

The Dun Cow’s features are so impressive that US musical star Howard Keel is reputed to have tried to buy it during an appearance at the Empire.

The pub was also singled out by North-East architectural expert John Grundy in his Tyne Tees TV series Grundy Goes, which featured The Dun Cow and The Half Moon in Newcastle’s Bigg Market, both of which were designed by architect B.F. Simpson.