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From left: SV Rutter Building Services Historic Buildings Surveyor George Wouldhave, Katherine Whitehead of Ainsworth Spark Architects, National Lottery Heritage Fund Senior Investment Manager Chris Harland, Chair of the MAC Trust and Leighton Director Paul Callaghan and City Councillor Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration Kevin Johnston. Front kneeling City Council Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Officer Judith Miller.

New life for old landmarks

Two historic pubs in the heart of Sunderland's Minster Quarter are getting major face-lifts thanks to National Lottery players.

The council applied for and last year won a total of £1.9m in funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme.

This was matched with £300,000 partnership funding from the City Council towards the scheme and overall regeneration of the Minster Quarter.

The scheme operates until August 2023 providing grant assistance for works to historic buildings and will deliver improvements to the public open space next to the Minster. It is also offering a range of events and activities which are helping to get residents more involved in their local heritage.

Restoration works to the Grade II listed Peacock and Dun Cow are the first two priority building projects. Works have been made possible thanks to grant assistance of £380,000 from the scheme.

The funding is being matched by the owners Leighton Management Ltd with a total investment of almost £800,000 across both sites to fully restore their historic features.

The heritage area contains 11 listed buildings including the Grade II* listed Empire Theatre, Sunderland Minster, and the Peacock and Dun Cow Public Houses.

These are all part of the Bishopwearmouth Conservation Area. Bishopwearmouth is one of the three original settlements that came together to form Sunderland, and one of the first parts of the city to be designated as a conservation area.

The work will see the two buildings, which both date back to 1901, have their original features restored with repairs planned to the roofs, chimneys, stonework and windows. It is expected to take around five months to complete the works.

Councillor Kevin Johnston, the City Council's Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, said: "There's a lot happening in the city centre with restoration, investment, improvements and new works. These two projects are all part of this big picture.

"Both the Dun Cow and The Peacock are well-loved and well-used by many thousands of people every year. Making a contribution to their restoration is all in line with what the council, our lottery partners, the owners and, of course, the public expect and want in this historic part of the city centre."

The council is making significant investments in the city centre's regeneration as it works with developers and funding partners. Other grant aided projects are being developed in the area and further announcements are due in coming months, including improvements to Town Park and the Minster churchyard starting soon. These works will create an attractive open space linking into the wider Minster Quarter and improve the vibrancy of the city centre.

Paul Callaghan, Chairman of the Music, Arts and Culture Trust (MAC) and Director of Leighton, said: "The Dun Cow and the Peacock are among two of the finest examples of Edwardian architecture standing in the city. When Leighton took them over as part of the MAC Quarter project both were in an extremely poor state of repair and we knew they would require extensive work to the exterior of the buildings.

"The renovation of the Fire Station, completed 18 months ago, has proved to be a huge success and now, with the continued support of the Heritage Fund and Sunderland City Council, we are delighted to be able to restore these two iconic, architectural gems to their former glory."

The restoration projects are being managed by Ainsworth Spark Architects and undertaken by SV Rutter Ltd, both firms are experienced in the specialist repair of historic sandstone buildings. New stone to match the existing is being sourced from Dunhouse Quarry for the badly damaged areas and the clock to the Dun Cow is to be carefully restored to working order.

Ivor Crowther, Head of Investment, England: North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: "Money raised by National Lottery players has achieved an incredible amount for Sunderland’s heritage, with more than £36m invested into projects including the Fire Station, Hylton Castle and Holy Trinity Church.

"We’re delighted that Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme is one of those projects. This scheme is all about investing and helping to conserve and improve one of Sunderland's most-loved and distinctive areas."

Alongside these restoration works, improvements to access and landscaping around the Empire are nearing completion as part of the council's commitment to improving the city centre.

Cllr Johnston added: "Improvements and investment in our city help make it more dynamic and vibrant for residents, for visitors and for more investors."