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170-175 High Street West

Sunderland, England

Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust

Historic terraces that housed the first Binns Department Store in Sunderland will form heart of High Street rejuvention

For more than two centuries, a row of houses – 170-175 High Street West – has stood at the centre of Sunderland’s high street. Built as the burgeoning town stretched up the hill away from the docks, the buildings were rapidly adapted for commercial use when they housed the drapery shop of George Binns and his son, Henry. Over subsequent generations, the small drapery shop expanded to regional dominance as Binns Department Store. But the buildings that provided Binns’ first home fell into disrepair. Now in crumbling condition, the houses have been purchased by Sunderland City Council and gifted to Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust (TWBPT), in a last-ditch effort to restore these unique witnesses to Sunderland’s past, and to offer them a new lease of life.

The buildings at High Street West are at the heart of the local Conservation Area and feature prominently in plans for a High Street Heritage Action Zone funded by Historic England. In partnership with local independent music shop and venue, Pop Recs, TWBPT plans to restore the High Street West buildings to become a multi-purpose arts and social space comprising a record shop, café, gallery and venue, with on-site facilities for visiting artists to stay and rehearse. Together, the groups aim to create a dynamic anchor that will bring residents to Sunderland’s high street from across the Tyne and Wear region, revitalizing the wider area. Through the partnership between TWBPT and Pop Recs, this project demonstrates that adapting an historic building need not be stuffy to be sustainable – unexpected and vibrant new uses can be appropriate for even listed structures.

The project has received four AHF grants since 2018, including Viability and Development grants that were instrumental in enabling Historic England to fund emergency works necessary to stabilize the buildings. In December 2019, the project was awarded a £349,848 AHF Transformational Capital Grant, which has also unlocked £350,000 from the Partnership Scheme in the Old Sunderland Riverside Conservation Area (funded by Sunderland Council and Historic England). An additional £202,750 was awarded by the Pilgrim Trust and Garfield Weston Foundation, and raised through local fundraising efforts and the TWBPT’s own coffers.

Capital restoration works commenced on site in January 2020, and the project is expected to be complete by Autumn 2020, when this Sunderland landmark will once again play host to its community.

AHF Funding

Project Viability Grant - £15,000 (2018)

Project Development Grant - £23,000 (2019)

Crowdfunding Challenge Grant - up to £24,980 (2019) 

Transformational Project Grant - £349,848 (2019)

Heritage Development Trust pilot grant - £150,000 (2019)

These grants were made possible by funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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