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Tyne and Wear HER(12476): Sunderland, Belford Road, Belford House - Details

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Sunderland, Belford Road, Belford House





Semi Detached House

Early Modern


Destroyed Monument

Belford House has close historical associations with the political and industrial development of Sunderland. The property is actually made up of a pair of semis (originally called Belford Villas), comprising Belford House and Ashcroft. They were built in the 1870’s for Alderman J Coates, a prominent local politician (a member of the Liberal Club) and a ‘self-made man’, who began as an upholsterer’s apprentice, and who was described as a hot young radical in his obituary. He was elected to the Bridge ward in 1879 and died suddenly in 1904. By the time Coates became an alderman in 1895 the Thompson Family, of the prominent local ship building firm Joseph Lowes Thompson & Sons Ltd, had already become involved with the building. Sir Robert Norman Thompson and his family lived in the stately house from 1906 until his death in the 1950’s following which the building was converted into a welfare and sports club for the workers of his family’s shipbuilding firm, a use that has been sustained until very recently in the name of Belford House Sports and Social Club. Identification of the architects requires further research, but the involvement of Joseph Potts (1799-1885) or George A Middlemiss (1815-1887) should be considered. As already noted above, Potts completed a plan for a house on The Cedars, and Middlemiss not only built Ashbrooke Tower at Ashbrooke Cross as his own residence, he also owned the brickworks on Villette Road and was prolific in Hendon. However, he was renowned for his staunchly Tory views which would probably negate any involvement in the design of Belford house for the radically Liberal Coates! Belford House and Ashcroft both received shed and garage extensions in the early 1910s and the former’s kitchen was extended in 1928 by Hedley & Dent architects. Architecturally, Belford House is quite unlike anything else in the area, giving it much distinctiveness and great character. It is a large, well-designed Gothic style building with an imposing presence but a strong sense of being ‘hidden away’ in Belford Close. It was originally set in large gardens, later incorporating extensive sports grounds – tennis courts, bowling green and a playing field - following its conversion into a sports club. The building is three storeys high and built in uneven dark red brick with a Welsh slate roof, roll topped ridge tiles and sandstone quoins, window surrounds and other details. It has a strong vertical emphasis, which is intensified by the tall, slender pattern of fenestration, pointed gables and steep roof pitch. The roofline is particularly interesting, with tall brick corniced chimneys and each of the 14 gables on the main elevations finished with a pronounced ogee-shaped stone coping, topped with a large finial. Externally, the building is generally very well preserved with few alterations. It retains all of its traditional timber sliding-sashes, with the exception of the bricked-up attic windows of Ashcroft, and the majority of cast-iron rainwater goods are still in place. There have been several small extensions, which although not designed with as much flair as the main building are generally sympathetic to its character. The immediate setting of Belford House has been compromised over time. The front gardens, separated by a substantial, stepped brick wall with an integral stone gate pier, are all but lost to hardstanding and the rear garden to Ashcroft has been largely developed for a bungalow. The original rear garden on the Belford House side is still evident but its formality and layout has been lost. The tennis courts and bowling green also remain but are disused and untidy/overgrown. Belford House is a locally significant building, both historically and architecturally. It has strong associations with the political and industrial development of Sunderland, having been built for a prominent local politician and for a large part of its history used in associated with the City’s shipbuildin




Sunderland City Council, February 2008, The Cedars Proposed Conservation Area - Character Appraisal and Management Strategy; North of England Civic Trust, 1999, Proposed Belford/Backhouse Conservation Area, Sunderland - Conservation Area Assessment and Draft Character Appraisal; G E Milburn and S Miller, 1988, Sunderland – River, Town and People, A History from the 1780s to the Present Day

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