Community spirit of Sunderland castle's restoration

The Leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Graeme Miller, Chairman of Castle in the Community, Susan Ord, and the Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council, Patrick Melia, at Hylton Castle.
The Leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Graeme Miller, Chairman of Castle in the Community, Susan Ord, and the Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council, Patrick Melia, at Hylton Castle.

Sunderland's Hylton Castle prepares to open its doors later this year and there is still time to get involved with the renovation.

Residents in Sunderland have worked hard behind the scenes, with more than 120 people volunteering their time, skills and expertise at the castle last year in a range of roles and variety of events and activities.

Sunderland College students on hard hat tour at Hylton Castle.

Sunderland College students on hard hat tour at Hylton Castle.

They played a vital role in everything from raising awareness of the castle's history and leading workshops with school children, to carrying out environmental work in Hylton Dene and helping to host the huge 'Battle for Sunderland' English Civil War re-enactment event in the castle grounds last summer.

A drop-in event will be held next week for anyone who would still like to get involved with the transformation to find out how they can help.

Schools, colleges and universities are among those who have been involved in a range of education and training projects connected to the castle, with apprenticeships and work placements.

These have included construction students working with the building team on-site and hundreds of school children learning about the castle.

An English Civil War Society Battle Re-Enactment at Hylton Castle.

An English Civil War Society Battle Re-Enactment at Hylton Castle.

Work to transform Hylton Castle into a heritage and community venue for all to enjoy began in 2016 with construction work commencing in Autumn 2017. This was the result of a quarter of a century of campaigning by residents to make the iconic structure active once more and at the heart of community life.

The £4.2million project is a partnership between Castle in the Community and Sunderland City Council, funded by the council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

When the work is complete and the castle opens its doors it will include a café and learning, event and exhibition spaces, with community-based training, learning and volunteering at the heart of the project.

Sunderland City Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture, Councillor John Kelly, said: "It's fantastic to see the progress being made at Hylton Castle both in terms of the construction work on site but also the numbers of local volunteers and schools who have already been involved. This will continue to grow as the Hylton Castle Project moves forward.

Members of some of the groups and organisations involved with the community led restoration project of Hylton Castle.

Members of some of the groups and organisations involved with the community led restoration project of Hylton Castle.

"This project isn't just about celebrating the history of the castle and grounds, it's about celebrating the different roles it has played as an iconic building in the heart of the community and in the lives of the generations of local people connected with it.

"As we look forward to the future of the castle as a community-based, heritage led venue for the region, we also look forward to the training, learning, cultural and leisure opportunities that will be provided for future generations."

Susan Ord, chairman of Castle in Community, said: "The success of the Hylton Castle Project is founded on the contributions and support of local people over past decades to secure the project, today as the work on site continues, and in future as the building opens its doors.

"We’ve tried to organise as wide a range of events and activities as possible, to give everyone the opportunity to get involved - as volunteers, participants or spectators- and we have more planned over the next few months as we prepare for the castle and grounds to re-open to the public."

A school group during a visit to the site.

A school group during a visit to the site.

For those who would like to discover more about the history of Hylton Castle, see photos of the restoration work on-site, and find out how to become involved and be a part of the project, a drop-in event is being held at the Bunny Hill Centre in Hylton Lane on Wednesday, January 16, from 5pm to 7pm.

More information is available by visiting www.hyltoncastle.org.uk, calling 0191 561 8611 or emailing elanor.johnson@sunderland.gov.uk.