Work has started to restore 200-year-old listed buildings in the heart of North Shields.
Northumberland Square is the most complete example of a Georgian Square on Tyneside.
A £5.6m scheme has now started to restore a row of terraced properties on the north side of the square to their original use as homes.
The three-storey building, built between 1810 and 1816, has been unoccupied for more than 10 years and the interior is largely derelict.
The Grade II listed façade, portico entrance, and a handful of original features are still intact and will be preserved including ornate plaster mouldings and, in one room, a cornice design featuring a pack of hounds chasing a fox which Heritage England has called ‘one of a kind’.
The redevelopment will see a total of 28 new build houses and apartments created, with secure courtyard parking and gardens to the rear.
The project is being delivered by Aurora Properties, acting on behalf of North Tyneside Council, with construction work being done by Compass Developments Ltd.
North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor, Norma Redfearn CBE, said: “It’s a new development for a very old and valued square. I hope that in a year’s time we will see it starting to come back to how it used to be all those years ago. There aren’t many squares like this in the country. It’s very special and I am sure that when it’s all done the people of North Shields will feel very proud.”
The square, a conservation area, is considered to be the nearest thing Tyneside has to the celebrated Georgian squares of London, Bath, Edinburgh and Dublin.
Local historian, Mike Scott, from the Old Low Light Heritage Centre, gave the redevelopment his approval.
He said: “I think this project to restore the building is a wonderful opportunity to upgrade the square and link into the past, because the building has a fascinating history. It’s a particularly interesting project because the building has been recycled once before and what you see standing today, all the sandstone, is from Wakefield House, which was built around 1796.”
Stephen O’Neill, of Compass Developments, said: “It’s a large project, very prestigious, in a beautiful area of North Shields and one of the original Georgian squares.
“To be involved in a project to bring back the building from its current state into fantastic apartments and housing will be something everyone can be proud of.
"We have full schedules from Heritage England to retain all the features they have identified, particularly stone porticos outside and a lot of the internal features such as coving and some unique coving on the first floor.”
The project will take an estimated 18 months to complete and is expected to deliver an economic boost that will increase footfall for local businesses and complement regeneration efforts in the town.