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Helping our members save the UK’s heritage assets.

Heritage Trust Network Member Case Study

Dunston Staiths

Members Projects in the Spotlight

Dunston Staiths

Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust (TWBPT) is a long standing member of Heritage Trust Network (formally called UK Association of Building Preservation Trust). The charity was established in 1979 to preserve its local architectural heritage through the repair, conservation and regeneration of historic buildings and structures of special historic, architectural, or townscape interest for public benefit.

The Phase 1 restoration of Dunston Staiths, which is now owned by TWBPT, is one of its recent projects.

Dunston Staiths is located in Dunston in Gateshead, along the River Tyne. They are a Scheduled Monument, included within two nature conservation designations and is an undisturbed roosting area for a range of birds, as well as home to protected otters. The Staiths are also a stark reminder of Gateshead’s coal-mining heritage.

The Staiths are reputed to be the largest timber structure in Europe, standing at 526 metres long.  Dunston Staiths is a major industrial landmark in the Tyne corridor; it is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, Grade II listed, and is a prominent entry on Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ Register.

Dunston Staiths was first opened in 1893 by North Eastern Railways for loading coal from the North Durham coalfield onto ships, and continued to be a loading point for coal, coke and pencil pitch until the 1970s. It closed as a working structure in 1977, and for good in the early 1980s.  In 2003, and again in 2010, fire caused significant damage to parts of the structure.

TWBPT’s project in 2014-15 was to restore a section of the structure and reopen it as a sustainable visitor attraction.

The structure is constructed of 98 frames and the Phase 1 restoration work included: the repair of frames 36-40 which had been damaged by a fire in 2010; the provision of new handrailing between frames 1-40; and the repair of frame 1-8 that had been damaged by repetitive arson attacks.

The restoration work was carried out by north east civil engineers Owen Pugh Construction, whose project team undertook land based repairs to remove and replace damaged timber, as well as more challenging work involving structural repair work over water.

Alongside the capital repairs, an exciting activity and learning programme featuring large-scale artist-led engagement, brought the public, including schools, back onto the structure for the first time in over 20 years.

The repair operation to the Staiths and the Activity Plan cost £750,000 with TWBPT receiving a grant of £418,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £176,000 from Historic England. Support also came from Garfield Weston Foundation, Taylor Wimpey, Sir James Knott Trust, LEAF, from the trust’s own reserves and public donation.

Now restored, and supported by the Staiths Friends Group and volunteers, the Staiths have begun their journey to become a sustainable visitor attraction as well as reconnecting local people with the area’s industrial past. The structure itself is a haven to wildlife, and visitors can now take a 400-metre circular walk, using the upper and lower decks, to enjoy spectacular views of the river and its bridges, and appreciate the enormity of this iconic structure.

Further information

Information about parts of the activity programme which were delivered by Northern Architecture can be found in this blog

For more information about this restoration project contact Martin Hulse at

Dunston Staiths features in a separate learning case study within our toolkit, accessible to members, where Trust Manager Martin Hulse gives his ‘top tips’ and advice about working in partnership with Arts organisations on building preservation projects.

Find out more about the work of Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust in this short film; a great example of  the work of a BPT.

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