Two weeks ago, I was honoured to be part of a group tour around Hylton Castle to see the progress of the restoration works.
The works are part of a £4.5million partnership project between Sunderland City Council and Castle in the Community, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage. I am pleased to say that the works are on track to be finished in spring next year.
But for local campaigners the completion cannot come soon enough.
Restoring a 14th century castle is no mean feat, but for Coun Denny Wilson, Coun Doris MacKnight and Coun Stephen Foster, along with other local campaigners, this is so much more and is the culmination of a labour of love that they have dedicated themselves to for decades and one which many in positions of power told them would never happen.
For over 20 years, the local community around Hylton Castle have campaigned for this ‘working class castle’ to be properly restored and put to use for the benefit of all who live nearby and see it everyday, as well as all across the wider region who will now come to see and enjoy it.
Over that time, these three extraordinary people have gone from campaigners to councillors, in order to then use their platform in the council to lobby further for the castle restoration as well as a whole host of other issues important to their local community of Castle Ward.
The restoration works show the power of community activism when we all come together. Local campaigners, residents, businesses and politicians have all joined forces to make this restoration happen.
With persistence and determination over the years, the works are now almost complete, and will bring huge numbers of visitors from across the North East and further afield to our local area as well as joy to those who see it everyday out their windows.
I for one cannot wait!