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Repair work approved to save 230-year-old Masonic hall 'Phoenix Hall…

Tuesday, 05 April 2022

Repair work approved to save 230-year-old Masonic hall 'Phoenix Hall' in Sunderland's East End

Plans for major repair works to help safeguard the future of a historic masonic hall have been given the go-ahead. Sunderland City Council’s planning department received an application in 2021 for the Grade I-listed building off Queen Street East, known as Phoenix Hall.

According to planning documents, the building dates back to around 1785 and has been used as a Freemasons meeting lodge for more than 230 years. Much of the building’s heritage significance lies in the preserved temple room, which features masonic symbols and decoration.

Following a condition inspection, a number of works were identified to help preserve the building including repairs and 'like-for-like replacement' works where possible. This included repairs and maintenance to roof coverings, re-pointing of external areas and the renewal, repair and redecoration of windows and doors. Internally, the works also covered the repair of cracks and redecoration of ceilings and walls, as well as the 'renewal, re-fixing and repair' of the temple floor including the vinyl floor, floorboards and joists.

The listed building consent application was lodged by the Queens Street Heritage Trust, along with a heritage statement, which said the repairs would 'ensure this historic building is preserved for future generations.'

After considering the application, Sunderland City Council’s planning department approved the plans on March 30, 2022. A decision report, prepared by council planners, noted the 'exceptionally significant' listed building which is the 'oldest purpose-built masonic hall still in use by Freemasons anywhere in the country'. The council’s built heritage officer added that the conservation works would 'put the building in good repair and consolidate its architectural integrity, enabling its continued long-term use as a purpose-built Freemasons’ hall and the sustaining of its significance into the future'.

The planning decision report goes on to say: 'The proposed repairs to Phoenix Hall is a key project within the Sunderland’s Heritage Action Zone initiative and will importantly provide essential repair works to significant elements of the exceptionally significant Grade I-listed building, helping to conserve and sustain its significance into the future and contributing to addressing the heritage-at-risk status of Old Sunderland’s Conservation Areas.

'It is noted and considered that the proposed urgent repair works will address several areas of immediate concern regarding the condition of the building, most importantly evidence of structural movement in the chequered temple floor, one of the most significant features of the building and a main characteristic of its masonic architecture, as well as damage to walls, ceilings and joinery from water penetration caused by a poor arrangement of the rainwater goods and deterioration of the roof.'