​ Hundreds get hands on with Sunderland’s heritage as Holy Trinity gets set for revamp

More than 600 people, including 300 schoolchildren, had the chance to get hands on with Sunderland’s heritage at a Craft and Conserve weekend thanks to funding from Allchurches Trust.

The event marked the start of the Allchurches Trust Craft Skills programme at Holy Trinity, Sunderland, and was the last chance for people to explore the church before it is transformed into a heritage, learning and cultural venue in a restoration project funded by the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), which now cares for the building, as well as the National Lottery Heritage Fund and The Churches Conservation Trust.

On the first day, children from five local schools watched traditional building and craft skills demonstrations, many of which have been used historically at Holy Trinity and will be used in the conservation of the building. They also took part in activities and explored other heritage sites in East Sunderland, including the Donnison School (Living History North East) and Sunderland Maritime Heritage Centre.

Demonstrations included stained glass, lime pointing, roofing and leadwork, weaving, blacksmithing, ropework and book illustration. The children were able to try out some of the traditional crafts, including caulking – a traditional method of sealing boats – and make a model church, key rings and willow bird feeders. Pupils were able to leave feedback on a graffiti wall and on postcards.

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Some of the children brought their families along to enjoy the experience the following day when the Craft and Conserve Day was opened up to local residents, attracting around 300 visitors. It was the last chance to see the site before construction began in August 2019. Two walking tours of Sunderland were also led by volunteers. A number of visitors shared stories of the church, which are being followed up by Alex Henry, Interpretation Consultants.

As well as funding events and activities to encourage young people to learn about craft skills and conservation, Allchurches Trust’s £129,000 grant is funding two apprentices, who will learn skills such as wood carving and stonemasonry, to work on the major restoration project at Holy Trinity. They will start in September. You can read more about the project here.

Peter Mojsa, Grants Officer at Allchurches Trust, one of the UK’s largest grant-giving charities, said: “This exciting project will transform an under-used heritage gem into a thriving venue that will boost the local economy and bring this magnificent building back to life. We’re thrilled that our funding will help ensure that the traditional skills needed for conservation projects such as Holy Trinity can be handed on, and help inspire a passion for heritage in the next generation.”

When the new venue is complete, Producer Dave Stewart, originally from Sunderland and known worldwide as part of the former Eurythymics, will be the Creative Director of an arts, music and culture programme that will run in the beautifully restored and sensitively adapted church interior. It will also remain consecrated, holding up to six church services a year.

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Photo credit: MV Photography