The next chapter in bringing Hylton Castle back to life has begun.
Jon Charlton has been appointed as the new project director at the helm of bringing the 14th Century landmark back into use, as a community and visitor attraction.
Earlier this year the community-led cultural heritage project successfully attracted £2.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which is boosted by £1.5m match funding from Sunderland City Council.
Jon is the latest appointment in the project and will lead the charge in resurrecting the ancestral home of the Hilton family.
Once plans are complete, the castle will feature classrooms, a cafe and rooms for exhibitions, meetings and events. The castle’s revival also ties in with Sunderland’s bid to be named City of Culture 2021.
Jon has a proven track record of developing and managing large-scale heritage-led regeneration schemes including the £2.3 million Cromford Heritage Project in the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site in Derbyshire and several large scale Heritage Lottery funded schemes in the North Pennines.
Much of Jon’s work to date has centred on ensuring that nationally important heritage that is at risk of further architectural decay is saved and, where possible, given a new community purpose.
He said: “I am delighted to be appointed to lead this exciting cultural heritage project, and return one of the city’s most famous historic landmarks to daily use.
“None of this would have been possible without the dedication, drive and enthusiasm of local people. My role is to take that vision forward, and use the skills and resources we have available to help make it a reality.”
One of the director’s first official tasks is to meet local ward councillors and members the Friends Group on-site to take them on a tour of the building and the Dene, and discuss future plans and the proposed timetable of preparatory work and construction.
Built over three floors, the Castle Gatehouse will accommodate classrooms, a café, exhibition and flexible community spaces for meetings and events. The community run project will also see young people appointed to sit on the board alongside adult mentors.
Coun Denny Wilson, chair of Sunderland’s North Area Committee, said: “After so many years of hard work in the community to save the castle for future generations and restore it to use, we’re all delighted to see the next, final stage of that process begin.
“With all our support and the financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Sunderland City Council, we can all look forward to returning 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.”
Keith Younghusband, chair of the Friends of Hylton Castle voluntary group, added: “We’ve been working and campaigning for this day for more than twenty years.
“My thanks go to all those who have been involved in the successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid which has made this all possible, especially Sunderland City Council and their North Area Committee who helped and funded us to develop the application.
“With their funding and continuing support we now have the opportunity to turn our hopes and ambitions for Hylton Castle into reality, and restore this wonderful building into something that we can all be proud of.”