Clocking in at Mackie’s

Sunderland City Councillor Rebecca Atkinson (centre) with Mackies Corner Principal Conservation Office Mark Taylor (left) and site manager David Tait (right and one of the new clock faces.

A clock on one of Sunderland city centre’s landmark buildings is ready to show its faces again.

The clock at Mackie’s Corner and its two faces (one south and one west) were removed earlier this year as restoration works began on the Grade II listed building, and at nearby 170 – 175 High Street West.

Both buildings are part of the Sunderland Historic High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HAZ).

The clock has now been returned to Mackie’s and its mechanism is due to be installed and working again in coming weeks* as scaffolding is removed and restoration works are completed.

Last year, the two buildings were each awarded a £350,000 restoration grant from a partnership scheme funded by Sunderland City Council and Historic England. The properties had been identified as high priority projects for the city centre Heritage Action Zone.

The zone is part of the ongoing programme of works and improvements being brought to the city centre by the City Council and its public and private sector partners.

This includes City Hall and two further office space developments on the former Vaux site, a 120-room Holiday Inn hotel in Keel Square, the 450-seater auditorium in the Minster Quarter, and a new business centre in the former River Wear Commissioners Building. The new-look Town Park next to the Minster has also just opened to the public.

Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Dynamic City, Councillor Rebecca Atkinson said: “It is regrettable that the Mackie’s buildings fell vacant and were deteriorating before the new owners acquired them recognizing their potential.

“Getting the clock back is a major step in the works to restoring Mackie’s and the on-going success of the wider HAZ regeneration project.
“For many years ‘Mackie’s Corner’ and the clock were a popular meeting place for residents.
“A lot of restoration work has been going on and is now nearing completion. Once the scaffolding is off everybody will be able to see and appreciate more of Mackie’s and, of course, its famous and landmark clock.
“Already, with the nearby Elephant Tearooms, there’s a very noticeable improvement in activity here at this crossroads of our city centre.”

Mackie’s dates back to the mid-19th century. It takes its name from Mr Mackie who had a hat shop on the corner.

Jules Brown, Historic Places Advisor for Historic England, said: “Getting the Mackie’s Corner clock working again is a great symbolic moment for the Heritage Action Zone in Sunderland as it sends a strong message that this part of the city centre is on the up again.

“We’re really pleased to be helping the owner bring this important and characterful old building back to life, and make a valuable contribution to Sunderland’s city centre.”

The clock was installed by the then Town Council of Sunderland in 1855 with public money and the building’s dome was enlarged to house the mechanism and increase its prominence as a landmark. Its faces are made from opaque white glass with cast-iron numerals and hands with gilding. The clock and corner became well-known as a local meeting place.

Owner of Mackie’s Corner and the Hutchinson Building Alex Kirtley said: “Mackies Corner is an iconic building, getting the clock back and restored is a symbolic moment for the project.

“We are all looking forward to seeing the building brought back into use in the coming months. We have interest from some fantastic independent businesses wanting to join the development following the successful opening of The Black Door Hairdressing & Bou-Chique.”

Works at Mackie’s have been carried out by North East based Kapex Construction Ltd.

Its Site Manager David Tait said: “We have a lot of experience working on regeneration projects such as this, and we’re delighted to see the restoration work on Mackie’s Corner nearing completion. This is an historically important building and it will be especially rewarding to see the faces of the clock restored to their former glory once again.”

At 170-175 High Street West, work is progressing with one of the three slate roofs now completely restored, the chimney has been rebuilt, windows repaired and rainwater gutters have been put in. Behind the scaffold the contractor Redfern Building Services Ltd has stabilised the structure of the middle building which had been weakened when its first floor was removed for the 19th century Binns department store.

Martin Hulse, from the Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust, said: “The funding from Sunderland City Council and Historic England has helped us to rescue these fine buildings and we look forward to bringing them back into use.

“High St West has been in a poor state for too long and we hope that this project and the work at Mackie’s Corner will give confidence to other building owners to maintain their buildings, paint their windows and repair their roofs.”

Further action zone restoration projects for improving the city centre’s street scene are planned over the next year, including a new shop front for the Elephant Tea Rooms opposite Mackie’s Corner.