Plans for major repair works to help safeguard the future of a historic masonic hall have been given the go-ahead.
Sunderland City Council’s planning department received an application in 2021 for the Grade I-listed building off Queen Street East, known as Phoenix Hall.
The building dates back to around 1785 and has been used as a Freemasons meeting lodge for more than 230 years. Much of the building’s heritage significance lies in the preserved temple room, which features masonic symbols and decoration.
The listed building consent application was lodged by the Queens Street Heritage Trust, along with a heritage statement, which said the repairs would “ensure this historic building is preserved for future generations.”
After considering the application, Sunderland City Council’s planning department have now approved the plans.
A decision report, prepared by council planners, noted the “exceptionally significant” listed building which is the “oldest purpose-built masonic hall still in use by Freemasons anywhere in the country”.
The planning decision report goes on to say: “The proposed repairs to Phoenix Hall is a key project within the Sunderland’s Heritage Action Zone initiative and will importantly provide essential repair works to significant elements of the exceptionally significant Grade I-listed building, helping to conserve and sustain its significance into the future and contributing to addressing the heritage-at-risk status of Old Sunderland’s Conservation Areas.
“It is noted and considered that the proposed urgent repair works will address several areas of immediate concern regarding the condition of the building, most importantly evidence of structural movement in the chequered temple floor, one of the most significant features of the building and a main characteristic of its masonic architecture, as well as damage to walls, ceilings and joinery from water penetration caused by a poor arrangement of the rainwater goods and deterioration of the roof.”
The Hairy Biker’s Dave Myers announces he’s battling cancer – and vows to beat illness
The Hairy Biker’s star Dave Myers has sadly revealed he’s battling cancer – but he vows to beat the illness.
The 64-year-old shared the news with his fans today and that he is having chemotherapy.
He stated ‘have not been too well recently’ – before telling the devastating news to followers.
Speaking about the illness with his TV cooking partner Si King, 55 he said: “I maybe a baldy biker for a while… it’s simply something I have to live with.”
“Anyway Kingy, I’ve got to come clean now, I haven’t been too well recently and basically, I’ve got to have some chemo, you know all this anyway, so this year is going to be a bit quiet for me, I’m not going to be filming, some of the festivals I’m not going to be able to go to, some may be okay but this year’s a bit of a write off for us.”
The TV star reassured fans that the prognosis is OK – and that he is going to be fine.
He added: “I have had to speak up about this because I don’t want to hide under a rock, but I would love it if people respected my privacy and just let me get on with it and give Si and our team all the support they need, that would be great. But look, the prognosis is okay, I’m going to be fine.”
Dave concluded: “I’ve just got to tuck in, look after myself, eat sensibly and get over this mess, flog books, and be a happy person so within that, that’s where I am.
In response, Si told his co-star and close pal: “No listen, when I first met you dude you looked like an upside down Hells Angel so I like that look, I’ve always liked that look, you look cool.”
Dave added: “Yeah I know, and under different circumstances I would embrace it more but I feel under these circumstances it’s simply something I have to live with.”
He has chosen not to publicly reveal the type of cancer he has.
Our thoughts are with him and his family at this difficult time.
Contamination scare at Northumbria University
Concerns were raised after ballot papers were thought to have been contaminated at a North East university yesterday afternoon.
Emergency crews were called to the scene at Northumbria University Sports Central on Tuesday (May 3) following reports of concern after what was thought to be a suspicious substance was found in a number of ballot papers. As a precaution, the contaminated papers were recovered and tested.
Numerous ambulance crews attended the incident and thankfully nobody was left needing treatment. Following the tests there were were no suspicious substances found and there was no further action was taken by Northumbria Police
A spokesperson for the Force said: “Northumbria Police received a report of concern after what was thought to be a suspicious substance was found in a number of ballot papers at Northumbria University Sports Central on Tuesday, May 3.
“At around 12.50pm officers and the fire service attended the scene and as a precaution, the contaminated papers were recovered and tested.
“There were no suspicious substances found and there was no further police action.”
A Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) spokesperson said: “We can confirm we attended an incident at Sports Central in Newcastle on Tuesday afternoon. “A number of our specialist assets supported Northumbria Police in identifying a suspicious substance. It was deemed not to be harmful and we left the scene a short time later.”
Where is the ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin Now?
Two decades after Hartlepool prison officer John Darwin attempted to fake his own death in a canoeing ‘accident’, ITV aired a dramatised version of the bizarre events.
The former prison officer paddled out to sea in a canoe near his family home at Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, before ditching the vessel to give the impression that he drowned. The ‘Canoe Man’ had attempted to disappear in 2002 in order for his wife Anne to claim life insurance money before being caught out in 2007 and jailed for six years for the fraud. After his disappearance in March 2002, a large-scale search involving the scouring of 62 square miles of coastline looked to have confirmed the worst, as only a single paddle and then the wreckage of his kayak was discovered.
For much of Darwin’s missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home in the seaside resort of Seaton Carew, where he shared a bed with his wife. When family and friends visited and his sons returned from the inquest into his alleged death, Darwin hid in a bedsit next door that was accessed through a passageway hidden behind the door of a fake cupboard.
Darwin later admitted that he would carry out DIY on the front of his family home and even walked around his area disguised as an old man – even as his two now grown-up sons Anthony and Mark continued to grieve for him thinking he was dead. The couple even lied to their own children as they attempted to claim pension, benefits and insurance to clear nearly £700,000 before they were caught.
Just under a year after he disappeared, Darwin turned up at his family home looking ‘an absolute mess’, his wife said.She claimed that she had really believed he was dead before he turned up.
‘Although I was pleased he was still alive, I think deep down a part of me was always angry,’ she said.
‘To think of what he put us all through. He had basically come back expecting me to forgive him.’
She claimed that she wanted to report what he had done but he then threatened to say she had been involved from the start, so she was ‘trapped’. At the inquest into his disappearance in April 2003, Mrs Darwin was able to have her husband declared dead, even though the seven years that is usually needed after someone has gone missing had not yet passed.
The couple eventually decided to leave Seaton Carew and move to Panama City to start a new life together before their secret was exposed by the discovery of an infamous photo of them posing in a Panama real estate office in July 2006. Darwin, stole the identity of a dead baby named John Jones.
The family home was sold and the couple spent several months together in Panama after they had bought a £50,000 two-bed apartment in a suburb of Panama City. They also hoped to open a canoeing centre for eco-tourists.
But Darwin then wanted to return to the UK because, Mrs Darwin said, he missed his sons. He said he would claim to have suffered amnesia.
Knowing there was a viral photograph of them in Panama, Darwin walked into a police station in December 2007 and said he thought he was a ‘missing person’ but said he could not remember anything that had happened in the past five years.
When their two sons were called to the police station to be reunited with their father, the couple had to pretend to be astonished as they too saw each other again.
During their time in prison, the couple divorced with John citing ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as a reason for the split. John moved to Manila and remarried after the divorce to Filipino woman Mercy Mae Avila Darwin, 48.
In 2008, after the scandal made national headlines, John was found guilty on deception charges and jailed for six years and three months. Anne was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail for fraud and money-laundering charges. After her release from prison, Anne Darwin moved to a village near York and was able to get a job with the RSCPA thanks to qualifications she gained in prison.
ITV drama about John and Anne Darwin’s fraud. The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe airs in April.
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