Sunderland wins £5.4million to bring Old Fire Station and Hylton Castle back to life

The Old Fire Station has been awarded �2.5million to transform it into a hub for cultural activity.
The Old Fire Station has been awarded �2.5million to transform it into a hub for cultural activity.
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City leaders are today celebrating a £5.4million National Lottery jackpot that will help breathe new life into two of Sunderland’s most historic buildings.

The cash windfall from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will see a £2.5million grant help revamp the Old Fire Station into a new cultural hub.

And a further £2.9million will be spent on turning the 14th century Hylton Castle back into a community and visitor attraction.

Council leader Paul Watson believed today’s announcement would be a major boost to the city’s bid to be named UK City of Culture in 2021.

He said: “This is fantastic news for the city. Both projects are testament to the drive, determination and dedication of the people behind them, and all those involved should rightly be proud of their success.

“Sunderland has always had a proud cultural heritage and the success of projects like this can only serve to strengthen the city’s bid to become UK City of Culture in 2021.

“Building on award-winning developments like Keel Square – and the start of work on the Vaux site, this will also play a significant role in the continuing regeneration of our city centre.”

Chris Mullin, chairman of the HLF North East Committee, said: ‘’The Old Fire Station and Hylton Castle represent two very different parts of Sunderland’s past.

“They also mark a bright new chapter for the heritage, culture and economy of the city. We are delighted to announce this significant investment in one of our priority areas and look forward to seeing these projects take shape.”


Lottery cash will safeguard the long-term future of Hylton Castle, heritage bosses have said.

The £2.9million grant will see work take place to transform the empty shell of the 14th century castle into a community and visitor attraction as well as a site for educational use.

Built over three floors, the Castle Gatehouse will include classrooms, a café, exhibition and flexible community spaces for meetings and events.

The HLF grant will be boosted by £1.5million match funding from the council, meaning an overall £4.4million investment.

Plans for Hylton Castle include:

• Exhibition spaces to house a broad range of events and activities

• A café

• Learning spaces for use by schools, colleges and universities

The community-run project will also see young people appointed to sit on the board alongside adult mentors.

Coun Denny Wilson, chairman of Sunderland’s North Area Committee, said: “We are all delighted at the success of the final bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will allow us to develop the ambitious plans drawn up during the bid process to return Hylton Castle to the centre of community life.

“What makes this heritage project so special is the fact that it has always been community- led. This will be reflected in the unique management structure with young people appointed to the board working towards the long-term future development of the site.

“The grant will allow us and the ‘Friends of Hylton Castle and Dene’ which was set up almost 20 years ago, to pursue their dream of bringing the castle back to life, and put the management, marketing and architectural plans already in place into action.”

Keith Younghusband, Chair of the Friends of Hylton Castle, said: “This is great news. It is a wonderful outcome to many years of hard work. My thanks go to all those who have been involved in the bid, especially Sunderland City Council and their North Area Committee who gave us £30,000 to develop the bid, and the staff who have put so much hard work in achieving this outcome. We now have the opportunity to bring the plans that exist into reality and restore this wonderful building into something that we can all be proud of.

“I am grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for providing the funding. I look forward to the work being completed.”

Lynn Rylance, area manager for North East & Cumbria English Heritage, added: “We are pleased to hear that the bid has been successful. We have supported this project along the way and are looking forward to working with partners to bring this unique site back to life for the community.”


The Old Fire Station will be the site of a new vibrant cultural quarter for the city.

Dance and drama studios, a bar, restuarant and heritage centre will all be included in the transformation of the building that has stood empty since 1992.

City leaders see its renaissance as the start of a major regeneration project in the historic Edwardian part of the city centre, which also includes the Sunderland Empire and Dun Cow.

Built in 1907, the revamp of the Old Fire Station will follow on from the opening of Keel Square and hopefully help deliver plans for a £7.8million auditorium in the area, which was recently awarded a £250,000 initial development grant from the Arts Council.

Council chiefs say that, in total, the project will deliver more than £10million worth of investment into the Bishopwearmouth conservation area.

Leader of Sunderland City Council Paul Watson, said: “It is a fantastic project for the city.

“We have had lots of enquires over the last decade saying this building needs to be sorted out, so it will be great to see that achieved the by the Heritage Lottery Fund.”

The £2.5million HLF grant for the Old Fire Station has been awarded to the Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust.

Paul Callaghan ,of the MAC Trust, said: “The MAC Trust is delighted by HLF’s decision to support the redevelopment of the Fire Station.

“This project reflects Sunderland’s growing ambition to use heritage and culture as major drivers in economic regeneration.

“This iconic building will be brought back into use after more than 20 years and will become a wonderful cultural asset for the city and a prime example of the way in which the heritage of a city can be successfully used to develop its future.

“We would like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for its continued support, guidance and funding, and our other partners including Sunderland City Council, Dance City and Live Theatre who are helping to make this happen.”

Andrew Burnett, projects director at Buckey Burnett, added: “We were delighted to have secured the grant award from the Heritage Enterprise Lottery Fund on behalf of the MAC Trust.

“The Fire Station is such an important building within the city and its renovation will see it brought back into use for the benefit of the communities and people of Sunderland.

“This award, combined with the ongoing Arts Council funding application for a new auditorium adjacent to the Fire Station means that 2016 will be an exciting year for the MAC Quarter and we are looking forward to seeing the start of construction works on site later this year.”

The Old Fire Station was one of 3,000 buildings damaged in Sunderland during the Second World War.

Part of the project will also include creating a permanant legacy for the city’s firefighting heritage.