As historic Hylton Castle prepares to open its doors later this year local people have been working hard behind the scenes.
More than 120 people volunteered their time, skills and expertise at the castle last year in a range of roles and variety of events and activities.
They played a vital role in everything from raising awareness of the castle’s history and leading workshops with local school children, to carrying out environmental work in Hylton Dene and helping to host the huge ‘Battle for Sunderland’ English civil war re-enactment event in the castle grounds last summer.
Schools, colleges and universities have also been involved in a range of education and training projects connected to the castle, with apprenticeships and work placements.
These have included construction students working with the building team on-site, students undertaking placements with the Hylton Castle Project team, and hundreds of school children learning about the castle through visits to the site and workshops in their schools.
School workshops have focused on the history and cultural heritage of the castle, and also its role at the heart of the community over recent generations.
Work to transform Hylton Castle into a heritage and community venue for all to enjoy began in 2016 with construction work commencing in Autumn 2017. This was the result of a quarter of a century of campaigning by local people to make the iconic structure active once more and at the heart of community life.
The £4.2 million project is a partnership between Castle in the Community and Sunderland City Council, funded by the council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
When the work is complete and the castle opens its doors it will include a café and learning, event and exhibition spaces, with community-based training, learning and volunteering at the heart of the project.
Sunderland City Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture, Councillor John Kelly said:
“It’s fantastic to see the progress being made at Hylton Castle both in terms of the construction work on site but also the numbers of local volunteers and schools who have already been involved. This will continue to grow as the Hylton Castle Project moves forward.
“This project isn’t just about celebrating the history of the castle and grounds, it’s about celebrating the different roles it has played as an iconic building in the heart of the community and in the lives of the generations of local people connected with it.
“As we look forward to the future of the castle as a community-based, heritage led venue for the region, we also look forward to the training, learning, cultural and leisure opportunities that will be provided for future generations.”
Hylton Castle Project activities in 2018 included:
- Learning workshops for over 3000 local primary and secondary school children linked to history, geography, science, art, and literacy
- Partnership programme developing local heritage learning with Hylton Castle Primary School around geography, history, and citizenship
- Placements for students from the University of Sunderland and Newcastle University and project work with students from Sunderland College and the University of Northumbria
- More than 500 children from across the city were inspired to write their own stories about the castle and dene over the summer months, as part of the Hylton Castle Stories writing competition in partnership with the University of Sunderland
- Week-long work placements on site at Hylton Castle for young people wishing to follow a career in construction, plus support for five young people on traineeship or apprenticeship programmes working at the castle
- Celebratory event to mark the Royal Wedding in May, attended by 50 older people and staffed by volunteers from the local community and students from Sunderland College
- Family learning activities in Hylton Dene during all school holidays attended by more than 1000 people, including nature trails, craft activities, sports, forest school and storytelling activities
- Establishment of an active volunteer research group who are exploring the history of Hylton Castle and working on ways to tell the stories of the castle and its characters through text, images, and digital media
- ‘Hard Hat Tours’ of the site for more than 200 people, including the chance to climb the scaffolding to see the views from the top of the castle over the city
- Volunteers on the project have been involved in research, learning, social media and communications, graphic design, event support, leading walks and hard hat tours, photography, and much more
Chair of Castle in Community, Susan Ord said:
“The success of the Hylton Castle Project is founded on the contributions and support of local people over past decades to secure the project, today as the work on site continues, and in future as the building opens its doors.
“We’ve tried to organise as wide a range of events and activities as possible, to give everyone the opportunity to get involved – as volunteers, participants or spectators- and we have more planned over the next few months as we prepare for the castle and grounds to re-open to the public.”
For those who would like to discover more about the history of Hylton Castle, see photos of the restoration work on-site, and find out how to become involved and be a part of the project, a drop-in event is being held at the Bunny Hill Centre (Hylton Lane, Sunderland SR5 4BW) next Wednesday 16th January from 5-7pm.