Family of founder of Sunderland's Doxford shipyard hope historic gatehouse can be saved

The family of the founder of the Doxford shipyard have expressed a hope that its ‘iconic’ Pallion gatehouse can be preserved.

Monday, 8th July 2019, 8:09 am
The Doxford gatehouse. Sunderland Council wants to remove it, but campaigners say it can be restored.

Richard Doxford, great-grandson of shipbuilding legend Sir William Doxford, is backing a campaign to save the structure. The 116 year-old gateway is dilapidated, but remains a physical reminder of the yard.

Sunderland City Council wants to preserve the arches and iron gates, but has previously it couldn’t justify the expense of restoring the entire gatehouse, which is to make way for a new dual carriageway which will help link the Northern Spire bridge with the Port of Sunderland.

Mr Doxford lives in Eastbourne but remains passionate about Sunderland and its heritage.

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Richard Doxford: The great-grandson of Sir William Doxford wants to save the gatehouse.

He said: “The gateway is iconic. It’s not just personal to me.

“Doxford’s produced the most tonnage of all the shipbuilders on the River Wear; which produced more ships than the Clyde or the Tyne.

“I feel in my blood that I still belong in Sunderland. Youngsters should know about the shipbuilding heritage and preserving the gateway would help with that. Even it it has to be knocked down and rebuilt. I would love to see it preserved.”

An official appeal has been made to English Heritage, which hasn’t given the building listed status because of alterations made to it, including rendering over the original brickwork.

Richard Doxford: The great-grandson of Sir William Doxford wants to save the gatehouse.

However, Mr Doxford’s sister, Martha Doxford, a retired architect living in the south of France, says the rendering could be removed and is prepared to come to Pallion to lend professional help.

Council leader, Graeme Miller, said: "This council has always been very aware of our heritage and how proud people are of it. When it came to commemorating our shipbuilding heritage, this is exactly what we did with our award winning Keel Square and its keel line.

“It was agreed that, although the building and brickwork was in a dilapidated condition, its arch and gates could be restored and re-located alongside the new dual carriageway as public art and a memorial to our shipbuilding heritage.

“These will be located in a prominent position opposite the Sunderland Wall climbing centre, not far from where the gatehouse stands now.”

Heyday: Doxford's gatehouse looking grand in 1930.
Doxford's gatehouse in 1921. Campaigners say it could look like this again.