Minster Park opens to the public
Works to transform Minster Park is now complete, launching the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme off to a flying start.
A YEAR-long programme of improvement works to transform Minster Park, Sunderland Minster churchyard and two historic pubs is now complete launching the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme off to a flying start, with £1.5m investment across all four projects.
The new Minster Park, formerly known as Town Park, has been revitalised with new landscaping that features a central sensory garden built on the footprint of the lost 18th century streets of Littlegate and Southgate. These historic streets once thrived with a melting pot of homes, businesses and a longstanding pub. The project team were even fortunate to discover the foundation stones of the Cyprus Hotel and Pub during the excavation.
The Council was gifted two historic street name plaques, removed in the 1960s. These have now been reinstated, with two new plaques especially made to match, completing the set.
Visitors can now imagine the streets as they once were rising out of the reclaimed limestone walls.
New granite footpaths, seating, lighting and soft landscaping have been added and the steps leading to Low Row widened and resurfaced in granite, creating a much more pleasant link to the park. The oval shape to the south of the park has been strengthened with new tree planting as part of National Tree Week, a reminder of its historic village green status.
Uniquely designed interpretation panels will also be added to help visitors learn more about the history of the medieval village and the lost historic buildings.
Sunderland Minster is an ancient parish Church at the heart of Bishopwearmouth, first recorded in 933AD, and reconnecting the building to the site of the former village was a key focus of the churchyard project. Stone boundary walls around Sunderland Minster have been carefully rebuilt reusing the historic stone, with new cast iron railings to create an attractive backdrop to the park. New granite paving has been laid on Church Lane using smaller setts to give a traditional village feel, with final works to the churchyard walls facing the lane planned in October.
The Minster Park and Sunderland Minster churchyard projects were undertaken by local firms BCE Northern from Gateshead, Roker-based Mason & Forster Stonemasons and Sunderland firm Specialist Castings Ltd, repairing and reusing historic materials wherever possible. We were also able to offer 15 students from Sunderland College work experience placements, each completing 30 hours on site and learning valuable skills for their future job prospects. BCE Northern were also able to hire a new apprentice during the project. The total budget for both projects was £700,000, with the National Lottery Heritage Fund contributing two thirds of the cost thanks to National Lottery players.
It is hoped that the Minster Park will provide a family-friendly green space in the city that can be used by everyone for everything from relaxing in the sunshine to hosting public events.
Restoration works to the Grade II listed Peacock and Dun Cow pubs were the first two building projects to be completed with grant assistance of £382,000 from the Townscape Heritage Scheme and a total investment of £800,000.
Both buildings have seen their original features restored with repairs to the roofs, chimneys, stonework and windows. The historic 1901 copper dome and clock to the Dun Cow have also undergone specialist repairs.
Sunderland City Council was awarded £1.9m in funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme in 2018. This was matched with partnership funding from the Council and contributions from building owners and tenants, contributing to a £3m regeneration of the Minster Quarter.
Councillor Rebecca Atkinson, the City Council's Cabinet Member for Dynamic City, said: "It's fantastic to see Minster Park complete, it has been a hidden gem for so long and I am delighted that it will soon be enjoyed by more people.
"The project at the park and the Minster, together with the works at the Peacock and the Dun Cow, are all steps towards making the most of this historic part of our city."
The works are part of the ongoing package of city-wide public and private sector investment projects planned for Sunderland over the next five years, including £500m invested in the city centre.
An improved city centre experience is one of the things Sunderland residents have said they want to see in future, and the Minster Quarter marks another step in the city's exciting developments.
Among the projects currently in progress are the City Hall development on the former Vaux site with two more buildings to follow soon after; a 120-room Holiday Inn hotel on Keel Square; a 450-seater auditorium under construction in the city's Minster Quarter; a new business centre in the former River Wear Commissioners Building, as well as the STACK development and the Inn Collection Group's plan for a pub with rooms in Seaburn.