Tens of thousands of people walk past the distinctive red brick architecture of the old Victorian schoolhouse at the junction with Deptford each week. But it’s not just its Grade II listed Gothic features that have become a standout new feature.
Inside it has been carefully restored and upgraded by new owners Building Design Northern (BDN) who bought the underutilized site from Sunderland City Council in 2020.
It’s been a long road to completing this £1million restoration project, having to weather a pandemic as well as a fire at the site, but the old school has finally turned the page on a new chapter earlier. this year with the creation of a new BDN headquarters in one area of the building and eight new two-storey serviced apartments in the remaining two-thirds of the site.
As regeneration of the town gathers pace, the apartments are set to meet the demand for more accommodation of this type in the town and are a truly creative use of a forgotten building.
I went for a staycation, here’s what to expect:
School may be out, but style is key in new apartments.
Each apartment pays homage to the building’s heritage, making the most of features such as the original glazed brickwork, beams and deep window frames with new additions, such as parquet flooring, heritage blue cabinetry, new mezzanines and 1930s-style brick tiling. the powder rooms blend seamlessly.
I stayed in No 7, a corner apartment flooded with natural light with views of the city’s rapidly changing skyline in the £500million Riverside development opposite the famous Stadium of Light.
There’s also a nice touch with artwork by local artist Kathryn Robertson, known for her work in the ALS and Elephant Tearooms building, including a specially commissioned piece that features the school.
All apartments are double, so can accommodate up to two people, and have just about everything you might need for a stay, with a fully equipped kitchen, including cutlery, cooking utensils and equipment, washing machine, ironing board et al, plus a hook to lower the blinds on those huge windows, smart TV and super-fast WiFi.
A welcome basket with breakfast essentials and snacks was also a nice touch to make you feel welcome.
Our apartment was split level with a double bed upstairs overlooking the rest of the apartment under a high vaulted roof that almost felt like sleeping in a New York style loft instead of the Deptford entrance .
The location of the apartment, however, is another key element for visitors. Slightly away from the city centre, the apartments have their own free parking whilst being within easy walking distance of the city’s main attractions such as Sunderland Empire, Fire Station, Town Hall and Stadium.
History lesson on Simpson Street School
Opened in 1867 as the Deptford Yard Church of England School, the school consisted of a boys’ and infants’ department.
It was also known as Laing Church of England School at this time, but later became Simpson Street Boys Board School with a separate department for girls called Simpson Street Girls Board School in 1884, after the school was passed under the control of the Sunderland School Board.
In 1904 responsibility shifted from school boards to local education authorities and the schools became the Simpson Street Boys and Girls Council Schools.
In April 1929, a new school with separate departments was established for pupils aged eleven and over; Deptford Terrace Senior Boys School and Deptford Terrace Senior Girls School.
The Simpson Street premises remained as Simpson Street Junior School.
From January 1943, the boys’ and girls’ departments merged to form Deptford Terrace Senior Mixed School.
In July 1961, the school was closed to make way for industrial development on the site.
The Gothic-style building was protected by Grade II listing in 1994 and was briefly used as artists’ studios before sitting empty for some time.
Simpson Street School apartments are managed by Properties Unique, where they are available to rent for short stays. Prices start from £85 a night. To book a stay, visit propertiesunique.com or email [email protected]
We’ve partnered with BDN to offer an overnight stay at Simpson Street Apartments.
The prize can be claimed for a night of your choice, subject to availability. The prize must be claimed within six months of the draw and is based on a maximum of two people sharing a double bed.
For a chance to win, answer this question: Where in Sunderland are the Simpson Street School apartments located?
Email your response with your name and contact details to [email protected] before Monday, June 13.
The usual rules of the national world competition apply.
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