IT is hoped that the world’s oldest purpose-built, masonic temple, based in Sunderland, will be brought back to life by college students supported by the Heritage Skills Initiative.

A group of Sunderland College students are designing, specifying and costing a revival scheme and extension for the grade one listed Phoenix Hall, built in 1783. They will then present their plans to a panel of industry professionals competing against other North-East colleges and student projects to win an award set by the Heritage Skills Initiative.

The students, who will work on their proposals as part of the Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Construction Design & Management, hope to breathe new life into the historic building.

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The temple, situated in Queen Street East, Hendon, which has been used by members of Phoenix Lodge Freemason Group for over 225 years, is now boarded-up.

It is hoped that the project, which is part of a Heritage Skills Initiative Scheme, will be funded by Heritage Lottery grants and offers students professional experience in sympathetically planning and designing the restoration of a historic structure, in line with stringent building restrictions.

As well as submitting their design schemes to the Heritage Skills judging team the students will also be formally presenting their work to an invited panel of professionals who will help grade the marks for their HNC award. .

The Masonic Hall houses many original features, including a pipe organ built by John Donaldson, an eighteenth century organ and instrument builder, which sits in its own purpose-built gallery in the hall. The students are employed locally within the construction industry and are completing the Higher National Certificate to develop their professional skills and knowledge and enhance their careers. Some will progress onto degree courses and Chartered Membership of their professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Building and Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.