Historic Wearside Church wins three Prestige RIBA awards

Set in the heart of ‘Old Sunderland’ Holy Trinity Church, one of the North East’s most historically significant buildings has been saved thanks to a 10-year project by the Churches Conservation Trust, and its partners.  

Since opening one year ago, the building has won a raft of awards for craftsmanship, conservation and regeneration and on Thursday 11th May 2023, the project picked up three prestige RIBA Awards (Royal Institute for British Architects)  RIBA North East Award 2023, RIBA North East Building of the Year Award 2023 and RIBA North East Conservation Award 2023. 

These three awards top six  other awards including  Museums and Heritage Awards (restoration / conservation project of the year),  The Georgian Group’s Architectural awards, Re-use of a Georgian Building 2022, The National Brick Award, Highly commended for conservation and restoration, Winner (North East), and Highly commended (National) The National Construction Excellence Award for Restoration & Conservation, The Marsh Award Volunteering (North), bringing the totals to four national and five regional awards: 

RIBA awards 2023 – Why the judges chose this winner 

RIBA president Simon Allford said: “Winning a RIBA regional award is a fantastic achievement. These projects, selected by a rigorous peer review process, represent the very best of the region’s new architecture. Inspiring buildings and spaces bring joy to all our lives, and this year’s award winners certainly fit that bill. Many congratulations to all.”  

RIBA judges citation - The whole project is an outstanding example of the craft, imagination and perseverance required to work with a structure that was in incredibly poor condition … The jury visited at the end of a long day but they were immediately uplifted by the sense of calm, the understated and rigorous detailing, the passion and commitment of the client and architect team and the sheer beauty of how light, materiality and amenity have been woven together.’ 

RIBA North East Award winners will now be considered for a RIBA National Award in recognition of their architectural excellence, to be announced on 22 June. The shortlist for the RIBA Stirling Prize for the best building of the year will be drawn from the RIBA National Award-winning projects later in the year. 

Tim Mosedale, Director, Mosedale Gillatt Architects said

‘We are thrilled to win these prestigious awards for 17Nineteen – it is a culmination of amazing dedication from the entire project  team and would not have been possible without the expertise and commitment of  The Churches Conservation Trust. These awards demonstrate that blending the best in heritage conservation techniques with sensitive,  modern interventions can help  transform a Grade I listed  building, and successfully remove it from the  Heritage At Risk Register.’

Since opening in 2022, the onsite team have worked hard to re-connect this forgotten part of Sunderland with the wider region, and has seen visitors from across the globe.  Proudly standing at the heart of ‘Old Sunderland’ with the support of volunteers and a committed site team, the building once more shines with light and is filled with laughter, learning and a sense of community.  The programme is varied and there is something for everyone to participate in, and the coffee is pretty good too!  

About the project 

Holy Trinity Church was unique in serving a dual role for both worship and civic administration, Sunderland’s founders (the 24 Vestrymen) met here and were at the center of decisions regarding sanitation, poverty and law when Sunderland was one of the world’s major ports in the eighteenth century. 

The decline of the shipbuilding industry moved the city’s center away from the port and despite its rich history, exquisite architecture and being caretaker of 1000’s of stories, in the 1980’s the building was in real danger of being lost forever due to crippeling repair and conservation costs. Thanks to investment from trusts, charities, donors, individuals across the UK including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, together with the combined efforts of over 200 partners, local people, and skilled craftspeople this Grade I listed Georgian building has been transformed into a thriving cultural, community and celebration space –  now named ‘Seventeen Nineteen’ after the year that it was built. 

Greg Pickup, Churches Conservation Trust Chief Executive said

“This recognition is testament to the whole team’s efforts, the quality of what has been achieved and our ethos of championing community led regeneration in tandem with exemplary design and conservation work. It is an honour and I am really proud that SeventeenNineteen has received such prestigious awards as well as such a glowing citation from the Royal Institute of British Architects.”