Construction firms join forces to bring history to life in Sunderland


Two construction companies are making history by conquering the delicate job of restoring a 600-year-old castle ruin.

Seymour Civil Engineering has been brought in by principal contractor William Birch to help carry out the painstaking work of transforming Hylton Castle in Sunderland into a visitor and learning centre.

The £4.5 million project is a partnership between local community group Castle in the Community and Sunderland City Council and is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the castle itself is a Grade I Listed Building in the guardianship of English Heritage.

The project will rejuvenate the site for locals and visitors alike. Once open, it will be managed with and for young people and offer training and internship opportunities.

Andy Mountford, Site Manager at Seymour Civil Engineering, said: “Hylton Castle is a magnificent building and we’re really proud to be working alongside William Birch to bring it back to life as both an historic attraction and a hub for the community.

“Due to the nature of the project, the work has been far from run-of-the-mill, largely because of the archaeological significance of the site and the effect this has had on our work programme as we carry out all the groundworks.

“Working closely with a team of archaeologists has certainly brought with it a fair few challenges, as you don’t know what you’re going to uncover as you go.

“However, this has made working on the project really exciting and the team on site has adapted incredibly well to the situation, showing lots of ingenuity and professionalism when overcoming changes in circumstance and planning for what comes next.”

Brought in as the civil engineering contractor for the project, Seymour Civil Engineering has completed the groundworks for the restoration, laying the surface trenches in the grounds of the castle for the electricity, water and the ground source heat pumps for the castle’s geothermal energy, as well as the car park and footpaths.

Inside the castle Seymour has facilitated the installation of ground beams and will cast the concrete floors for all three levels, as well as the roof and a mezzanine floor.

The main contractor for the project, William Birch, is a building and restoration company based in York, specialising in heritage projects.

Simon Hills, William Birch’s Site Manager for the project, said: “Transforming the 14th century castle to a living, working building that benefits the local community and visitors has so far been an invigorating experience.

“The interest from the local community has been incredible and we have been proud to show many of them the project as it develops. They have waited a long time to see the castle come back to life and we are looking forward to unveiling the completed project in 2019.

“Working on buildings that are as nationally significant as Hylton Castle brings an abundance of challenges, challenges that the project team have had to really pull together to overcome.

“Seymour has had a tall order with this project, as it has been predominately the groundworks which has been affected by the need for close archaeological monitoring.

“The team are real specialists at what they do and they’re great engineers who are brilliant at their job and have acted really professionally throughout the bumps and halts of the project.”

Andy added: “Working with William Birch has been a real pleasure and the two teams have gelled incredibly well.

“Working hand-in-hand on a difficult job like this is of the upmost importance and having an effective working partnership means we’ve been able to sit down and quickly find solutions to any changes that come about.”

As one of the North East’s leading civil engineering contractors, Seymour Civil Engineering is no stranger to projects of this nature.

In partnership with Hartlepool Borough Council, Seymour Civil Engineering worked on the strengthening of the historic 14th century Hartlepool Headland Town Wall.

The firm worked closely with archaeologists to excavate original wall cladding and developed the craftsmanship to ensure the new wall carefully matched to the original.


Latest Issue

BDC 311 : Dec 2023