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The Elephant in the (Tea) Room

Elephant Tea Rooms is located on a critical junction in the city centre of Sunderland. Grade II listed, the building was designed by architect Frank Caws in a mixture of the high Victorian Hindu Gothic and Venetian Gothic styles, the design was developed as a selling point, with the exotic style and name advertising the origins of the tea sold there. The building plays an important part in the streetscape of Sunderland.

 

Since the original construction, the ground floor elevation was significantly altered when the building was turned into a bank. This led to the loss of the fine terracotta and faience work that can still be seen at the upper levels and the merger of the Tea Rooms with an adjacent building. Our design is a reinterpretation of the original construction, drawing inspiration from the historic evidence of the original frontages whilst working within the constraints of the structural amendments that have been made.

 

This scheme has dramatically improved the presentation of the building, allowing the elevations to be read in their entirety as the original intention and transforming one of the most recognisable buildings in Sunderland. Works included a wide range of repairs to the existing terracotta and faience work, and the introduction of a new traditional timber shop front to the adjacent Fawcett Street building. 

 

Jules Brown, Historic Places Adviser at Historic England, said: “Sunderland’s terracotta elephants are a superb reminder of how much pride and distinctive presence we used to pour into high street architecture … I’m really pleased that Historic England has been able to support Sunderland City Council’s restoration of this wonderful building.”




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