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Sunderland

Sheepfolds Stables

Last Updated:

1 Apr 2024

Sunderland

This is a

Stables

54.911857, -1.387919

Founded in 

1883

Current status is

Extant

Designer (if known):

William Bell

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Now reopening as a leisure venue

Despite Wearmouth Colliery making way for the Stadium of Light, it’s still surrounded by buildings and structures used during the days of the pit.

2 minutes away from the stadium is this lovely red brick building. These were the stables operated by the North Eastern Railway, opened in 1884 and otherwise known as the Sheepfolds Stables. Their army of horses were kept here, constantly ferrying goods and coal between their depots and the industries on the Wear.

It was designed by William Bell, the NER’s chief architect. He also supported the designs of Tynemouth, Darlington and Alnwick. A tender was put out in September 1883 for the stables to accommodate 107 horses and to include loose boxes, a shoeing shed and harness room. Two dwelling houses for horse keepers were also to be build nearby under the direction of William Bell. It's worth noting the NER also had a few stables in the region. An tender for stables in North Shields was advertised in 1868 from John Cleghorn, director between 1856 and 1870.

It was further remodelled in the 30s, and continued to be utilised by the LNER. Eventually though, probably during rationalisation in British Railway times, horses fell out of favour. The beautiful structure still survives though as a legacy of the huge role railways played in everyday urban life. It is soon to be revitalised as a leisure venue near the new gateway and the Stadium of Light.

Listing Description (if available)

Railway stables. 1883-84, altered c. 1930. Designed by William Bell for the North-Eastern Railway Co. Ltd.. Red brick with blue brick and ashlar dressings and Welsh slate roofs. All openings have ashlar lintels. Entrance fa?ade has 11 window, 2 storey central section flanked by single storey 11 window wings. Large central archway has segmental red brick arch with ashlar and blue brick dressings. Over central arch a moulded ashlar eaves band and above a dormer with a circular window and a half-hipped roof with decorative barge-boards. Arch has cast iron wheel buffers at base. Either side are 8 stable windows with ashlar lintels above a continuous blue brick band. Upper floor has 5 larger stable window openings to either side, also with ashlar lintels and also linked by a continuous blue brick band. Inner fa?ade has similar central archway topped with similar dormer. Either side are two stable windows, them two large garage openings with two pairs of garage doors - inserted c. 1930. Beyond are two further stable windows and single stable doors. Above two larger window openings either side, then a loft doorway topped by a hoist under a dormer roof, and beyond 3 further large windows. Either side the single storey wings have a single boarded opening, an inserted garage door, a further boarded window a plank door with overlight and then three further boarded windows. Inner courtyard contains Horse Hospital block with asphalt roof. South fa?ade has 3 stable doorways with over-lights and alternating with two stable windows, above 5 larger windows. North fa?ade symmetrical with central stable doorway flanked by 2 glazing bar sashes to each side. Above a central loft-door topped by a hoist under a dormer roof, flanked by smaller windows. To south a single storey Van Shed added c. 1912, with large continuous garage doors and a slate roof. To north a single storey stable range converted to motor workshops, with 3 inserted sets of garage doors and two former stable windows to left.

The stables first appear on Ordnance Survey maps in 1897, some 14 years after first mooted. It was perched next to the coal drops from Wearmouth Colliery, and directly next to the terraces between the pit and railway. It made for an ideal location to transport goods from the industries elsewhere in the city. You may also notice the huge expansion in the drops between 1897 and the 1910s, which is covered here: https://www.northeastheritagelibrary.co.uk/features/wearmouth-staiths

To understand the history of this building, we must also understand what preceded it. The 1859 Ordnance Survey was illustrated just as the terraces started to be built, when the area was still known as "Sheepfolds" given the name of the pottery near the banks. The Pemberton Drops (named after Wearmouth Colliery itself, Pemberton Main) had already been built, but still much of the land was vacant at this time. Probably only for the next few years into the 1860s though.

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The NER stables in 2024

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The stables shown here from the rear.

Source: © Historic England. Aerofilms Collection Historic England Photograph: EPW020547 flown 01/03/1928 (March 1928)

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An interesting insight to the interior of the stables. The dwelling houses are presumed to the those in the bottom part of the photo.

Source: © Historic England. Aerofilms Collection Historic England Photograph: EPW020553 flown 01/03/1928 (March 1928)

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