Sunderland’s National Glass Centre to make history clearer

Dame Dorothy Primary School Children at Sunderland University's National Glass Centre.
Dame Dorothy Primary School Children at Sunderland University's National Glass Centre.
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THE National Glass Centre is celebrating our glass past.

The Story of Sunderland project at the centre will celebrate the city’s historic relationship with Benedict Biscop.

In 674 AD, Biscop established a monastery at the mouth of the Wear, on the very site where the Glass Centre now stands.

To support the project, the NGC has received an award of £49,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which will help connect Wearsiders, schools, community groups, students and visitors with the significance of Biscop’s life in Sunderland and beyond.

This includes his values, ethos of learning and creativity and his lasting legacy, as well as the impact his monastery and the river have had on the economy, education and industry.

Alison Cleland, senior learning and engagement officer at NGC, said: “We are delighted to be awarded this funding which will help us to dig deep into our past and engage with people the significance of Biscop’s legacy, with a specific focus on his ethos of learning and credibility.

“We hope it will give people a sense of pride as well as a sense that their heritage is of global importance.”

In the 7th century, Biscop made six journeys to Rome, returning with books, relics, paintings, vestments, artefacts and skills to enhance the beauty and culture of the church and its people and create a centre of learning.

Wearmouth became the birthplace of stained glass-making in Britain, something which is still celebrated today at NGC and the twin monasteries of Wearmouth-Jarrow are now bidding to become recognised as a World Heritage Site.

Biscop was made Patron Saint of Sunderland in March 2004 and his monastery is considered to be “the European Powerhouse of Culture” of its day.

During the next 12 months this legacy will be incorporated into a range of exhibitions, discussions, workshops, demonstrations and celebration events that will inspire learning and provide opportunities for people to volunteer and work together on projects.

Ivor Crowther, head of HLF for the North East, said: “The story of Benedict Biscop is a fascinating one that should be shared and preserved and the range of activities planned will help this.”

NGC activities funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund award will include:

* An exhibition of museum-loaned and personal collections, objects, artefacts and digital stories, curated and interpreted by community groups.

* A hands-on project that will see schools, community and youth groups research the history of Sunderland in order to create interpretative handmade books that explore ancient calligraphy.

* The creation of “how-to” films and digital stories which aim to highlight crafts with links to Sunderland, from stained Anglo- Saxon glass and calligraphy to hot glassblowing and lampworking so significant to the former glass industry of Sunderland.

The films will be exhibited in NGC and on NGC’s website.