Transformation of Sunderland’s historic Elephant Tea Rooms complete and ready for new occupiers

26 March 2024

Work to restore the iconic Elephant Tea Rooms in Sunderland is now complete and Sunderland City Council will soon market the building to commence its next chapter as part of the Riverside Sunderland regeneration.

Since November 2022, the Grade II listed landmark has been undergoing external repair and enhancement works to reinstate its distinctive decoration and features, as well as installing new shop fronts that have transformed its appearance on the High Street.

The regeneration works – designed by Mosedale Gillatt Architects Ltd and delivered by specialist local contractors NCS Ltd and stone masons Mason and Forster – includes a striking new shopfront with intricate brickwork and vaulted corner turret feature, restored terracotta ornamental elephants and gargoyles using traditional craft skills, and a new timber shop front and windows.

Supported with over £700,000 funding from Sunderland City Council, Historic England and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) through the Future High Street Fund and Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) programme, the project has breathed new life into the Hindu Gothic style building while respecting its historic character and charm.

Peter McIntyre, executive director of city development at Sunderland City Council, said: “The completion of the restoration of Elephant Tea Rooms marks a significant milestone in our efforts to preserve and enhance Sunderland’s rich heritage.

“I am delighted to see this iconic building respectfully restored to its former glory, and I believe it will be a source of pride in our city for years to come.”

Jules Brown, historic places advisor at Historic England, said: “Adorned with stone elephants and gargoyles, the Tea Rooms is one of Sunderland’s most distinctive and best-loved landmarks. I’m really pleased that Historic England has been able to support Sunderland City Council’s restoration of this wonderful building, which I hope – together with the recently revitalised Mackie’s Corner – will bring new economic opportunities to this part of the city centre.”

Elephant Tea Rooms has been part of Sunderland’s history since the 1870s, when it was designed by the renowned Sunderland architect Frank Caws and built for tea merchant Ronald Grimshaw, who used it as a grocer’s shop and tea warehouse for Grimshaw & Son.

Located at the corner of High Street West and Fawcett Street, the Elephant Tea Rooms offers a unique opportunity for businesses looking to base themselves in the city centre and provides a distinctive setting suitable for the likes of retail, hospitality, or cultural uses.

Sunderland City Council will shortly market the building inviting entrepreneurs and businesses to explore the possibilities of occupying this iconic space and contributing to this increasingly vibrant part of the city centre. 

Peter added: “We are excited to see this incredible building open its doors to new occupiers, further enhancing our city centre alongside other successful restoration projects at Mackie’s Corner and at 170-175 High Street West.”

For businesses interested in leasing opportunities within the Elephant Tea Rooms, email Aidan Baker from BNP Paribas Real Estate at [email protected] or Kevin McGorie from Sanderson Weatherall at
[email protected]