Elephant Tea Warehouse and Grocers


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
64, 65 & 66 Fawcett Street and 229 & 230A High Street West, Sunderland, SR1 1BB


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Statutory Address:
64, 65 & 66 Fawcett Street and 229 & 230A High Street West, Sunderland, SR1 1BB

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Sunderland (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
NZ 39709 57133


Grocers and tea warehouse for Grimshaw & Son to designs of Frank Caws, incorporating an early-C19 house and a later-C19 building. C20 ground floor and other internal alterations.

Reasons for Designation

The former Elephant Tea Warehouse and Grocers, 1873 to 1877 for Grimshaw & Son to designs of Frank Caws, with C20 alterations, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* a Victorian commercial building that advertises its exotic wares through its equally exotic Hindu-Gothic architecture, including the incorporation of tea-chest-carrying elephants; * a well-executed and intricate terracotta exterior decorative scheme by the significant national firm Doulton & Co; * despite C20 alterations, the interior retains a largely legible plan-form that illustrates the varied functions of a later-C19 commercial premises; * a striking building in red and white, occupying a prominent High Street location, by notable local architect Frank Caws who has other listed buildings to his name.


Fawcett Street was constructed between 1820 and 1840 as a residential street of large houses, into which the Sunderland middle classes quickly moved their homes and businesses. The 1826 town survey depicts a row of houses at the junction with High Street West, and Thomas Robson's 1827 more detailed plan depicts them with generous rear rectangular plots, bounded by a row of narrow buildings, perhaps outhouses/coach houses; the 1858 town plan depicts a similar footprint. Between 1873 and 1877 the corner house of the row was rebuilt as a purpose-built grocers shop and tea warehouse, designed in Hindu Gothic style by Frank Caws for Grimshaw & Son, grocers and tea merchants. The company advertised their goods, including specialist teas and coffees, in the pages of the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette. The GOAD Insurance plan of 1894 depicts the commercial premises, which also includes the pre-existing house immediately to its south (64 Fawcett Street), and a newly constructed building (probably a warehouse) to the west of the latter's original plot; the premises overall at the end of the C19 was L-shaped in plan, and as well as the brick and terracotta clad main shop included a warehouse and probably office space. The building was undamaged in the Great Fire of Sunderland on the morning of 18 July 1898. Grimshaw & Son retained the business until at least the 1920s, but by 1931 the premises was under the ownership of M Burton Ltd, Tailors. The ground floor of the building was significantly altered in modern times with its change of use to a bank.

Frank Caws (1846-1905) was a well-respected and notable local architect who was significantly involved in the late-C19 rebuilding of Fawcett Street and High Street West. He is credited with designing some of the best buildings in Sunderland including the Grade II-listed 21 & 22 Fawcett Street (National Heritage List for England (NHLE): 1208224). He also had Hexham connections leading to his design for the Grade II-listed Duke's House (NHLE: 1042581). He was elected Fellow of RIBA 5 June 1893. The terracotta work was by Doulton & Co who ran a successful company started by John Moulton in 1815 and operated across the UK. They provided architectural ceramics for many buildings in the late C19 including their own headquarters in Lambeth.


Grocers and tea warehouse, 1873 to 1877 for Grimshaw & Son to designs of Frank Caws. Hindu-Gothic in style. The terracotta work is by Doulton & Co and the contractor was Henry Hopper. The building incorporates an early-C19 house and a later-C19 building to its rear. C20 ground floor and other internal alterations. MATERIALS: the 1870s building is polychrome, using red and white brick, terracotta and faience. It has a slate roof with terracotta crestings, faience gable copings and faience and brick chimneys. The early-C19 house is of hand-made brick with painted ashlar dressings, beneath a Welsh slate roof and brick chimney. The later-C19 rear building is red brick with ashlar dressings.

PLAN: L-shaped, comprising a purpose-built grocers and tea warehouse occupying a corner site at the junction of Fawcett Street and High Street West. Attached to the left is a rectangular early-C19 house, separated at the rear from a rectangular later-C19 building by a rectangular inner court/light well.

EXTERIOR: occupying a prominent corner site the 1870s building has two storeys plus attic and basement. It has four first floor windows to Fawcett Street and five first floor windows to High Street West, and a canted corner.

The ground floor has a glazed C20 shop front with a full-width tiled C20 fascia. The segmental pointed-arched arcaded first floor has clasping rings, crocket capitals to nook shafts, alternate block jambs, raised pointed arches and a roll-moulded dripstring. Within each arch sits an ogee arched sash window set back within the arcade. The window heads have fleur-de-lis finials in front of lozenge-patterned terracotta spandrels; within each lozenge sits a flower design. Windows have sash frames with sloping faience sills. The eaves cornice has a corbelled trefoil frieze. The attic windows have faience surrounds, similar to the first floor arcade, with alternate coloured block jambs. The windows set within each arch comprise a trefoil-headed transom light over small mullioned lights. Each of the attic windows is placed within a high gable with paired round-headed niches in a banded faience decoration, and moulded coping above. Between gables, faience elephants carrying tea chests are set in bracketed corniced shelves under bracketed gables with trefoil barge boards, crocket decoration and elaborate finials. A round oriel corner turret with nook-shafts has an arcaded central light and blind arches, below a band of linked splayed shafts and a wide eaves with gargoyles. Above this sits a further band of gablets, at the foot of a bicolour banded round turret with bracketed eaves and a Buddhist-style conical faience roof with a series of ringed ribs. There is an inscription along the turret recording DOULTON & CO as manufacturers of the terracotta and HENRY HOPPER as the builder. The steeply-pitched roof has ridges from each gable and tall chimneys with faience copings behind the elephant gablets.

Attached to, and considerably lower in height, is a former three-bay, three-storey town house on Fawcett Street. Above the C20 ground floor shop front and facia, it is constructed of hand-made brick, and windows have wedge stone lintels and projecting stone sills. First floor windows have renewed plain sashes and the second floor windows are smaller casements. There is an eaves gutter cornice and a stone-coped parapet. Above are small flat-headed dormer windows and a tall right transverse-ridge chimney.

The later-C19 building to the rear fronts Station Street; it is red brick with ashlar dressings beneath a pitched slate roof. It has three storeys and three bays and was probably constructed as a warehouse. The ground floor has a later brick facade with a broad shop facia, pierced by an entrance and a pair of plain, barred window openings. The first floor round-headed windows have heavy, keyed stone heads resting on a decorative stone impost band, and are fitted with fixed and casement frames. The segmental-headed second floor windows rest upon a stone, moulded sill band, and have similar stone heads to the first floor. There is a decorative frieze to the eaves immediately beneath a moulded eaves cornice, and the stone verges terminate in prominent moulded round-headed water tables.

INTERIOR: internally, the original three buildings function as a single unit, joined at the centre by a full-height light well. Interiors are all plain with suspended ceilings and inserted WCs. The ground floor is largely open-plan with original partitions removed as part of its conversion to a bank. A timber staircase in its original position rises through the full height of the building (boxed in to the ground floor). It has a moulded hand rail and newel posts of alternate rectangular and turned sections; the upper parts have plain stick balusters which are considered to be original. A plain, secondary staircase in its original position gives direct access from High Street West to the first floor. The first floor retains original window joinery to all three former buildings including moulded timber architraves, panelled soffits, jambs and aprons. Other historic features include a simple fireplace, round-headed alcove, plaster coving, simple timber boards to the walls, a four-panel door and a gas mantle to the former early-C19 house, and windows and joinery to the light well. In places the internal rain water system is visible within the walls in the form of cast-iron gutters. The King Post roof structure remains; it has some replacement timbers and what appear to be assembly marks to its main trusses. The basement has cast-iron columns supporting the floors above.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Milburn, G E, Miller, S T, Sunderland: River, Town & People, (1988), 163
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: County Durham, (1983), 458
Death of Mr Frank Caws: Obituaries, accessed 09-10-2019 from https://www.bartiesworld.co.uk/caws/cuttings/caws_frank_1905.pdf
Various late-C19 and C20 adverts and articles in the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 10 Oct 1999
Reference: IOE01/01230/29
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr B.G. Carroll. Source Historic England Archive
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