Major changes planned for Sunderland’s historic Elephant Tea Rooms

Plans to revamp one of Sunderland city centre’s most unique buildings have officially been lodged.

The Grade II-listed Elephant Tea Rooms have been earmarked for a major revamp as part of regeneration works to preserve the city’s heritage.

Detailed plans have now been submitted for external repairs and restoration works at the site, including “striking” new shop fronts inspired by the building’s historic architecture.

The external works are being supported with funding from the city council, Historic England and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities through the Future High Streets Fund and Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) projects.

On Wednesday November 24, Sunderland City Council’s planning department received an application to make major changes to the ground floor.

This included removing the existing shop front and replacing it with new traditional timber and masonry shop fronts.

In addition, repairs and conservation works are planned to the upper elevations, including masonry and window repairs and replacing three casement windows at first floor level with sliding sash windows.

The Elephant Tea Rooms have been a part of Sunderland’s history since the 1870s, when they were built for tea merchant William Grimshaw and used as a grocer’s shop and tea warehouse for Grimshaw and Son.

Designed by Sunderland architect Frank Caws, the upper floors of the Tea Rooms boast intricate terracotta and stonework features, including ornamental elephants, oriental birds and gargoyles looking over the high street.

However, the matching shop fronts were replaced in the 20th century when the building was converted into a bank.

A heritage, design and access statement submitted with the planning application adds the new proposals for the building would help to “enliven the historic high street.”

The supporting statement reads: “The proposals will have a marked positive impact on both the listed Elephant Tea Rooms and Sunniside Conservation Area.

“The conservation and revitalisation of the Elephant Tea Rooms through the reinstatement of striking new shop fronts inspired by the unique architecture of the building, along with essential repair and restoration works to its distinctive faience and terracotta features, will considerably enhance the character and significance of the listed building and this part of Sunniside Conservation Area.

“The proposals will further support the regeneration aims of the HAZ to revive and enliven the historic high street.”

An application for the works and a separate bid for listed building consent have been submitted for the building at 64-66 Fawcett Street.

Decisions on the applications are expected next year following public consultation.

For more information, visit Sunderland City Council’s online planning portal and search reference: 21/02747/LP3.

Chronicle Live – Sunderland