WATCH: Hundreds brave rain for Good Friday cross raising atop Sunderland’s Tunstall Hill

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HUNDREDS of Sunderland worshippers have turned out to mark a decades-old Easter tradition.

Despite atrocious weather, people turned out in force once again for the raising of the 12ft wooden cross atop of Tunstall Hill.

Pilgrims gathered on Tunstall Hill for the annual Good Friday raising of the cross and passion play.

Pilgrims gathered on Tunstall Hill for the annual Good Friday raising of the cross and passion play.

It was the 51st time that the event has been held after it was started in 1964.

The gathering brings together worshippers from across Wearside to mark Good Friday and commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus.

After the cross was nailed into place, a Passion Play was performed after it proved successful last year, while prayers were also said by Father Marc Lyden-Smith.

Rev Chris Howson, who is based at Sunderland Minster and is also chaplain at Sunderland University, led the service.

Rev Howson told the Echo: “Despite the terrible weather we’ve still got a huge turnout.

“It’s extraordinary and shows how much people in Sunderland want to mark Good Friday, which is quite profound.

“Loads of people and their families have made the effort to come up here and it’s brilliant.”

The tradition was started in 1964 by leaders at St Cecilia’s Church, in Ryhope Road, and has grown hugely over the years.

Ron and Win Home, of Barnes, have been coming ever since the first raising of the cross in 1964 and say it has become an annual pilgrimage for them to go to.

“It’s something that’s very important to us,” said Win, 77.

Ron, 78, added: “It’s really grown over the years. There was only a small group of us in ‘64 and it’s really multiplied since.”

Meanwhile, more than 300 people packed St Matthew’s Church in Silksworth, to be part of the Great Community Passion, which was moved indoors due to the bad weather.

Groups in the Silksworth and Doxford area decorated fourteen shopping trolleys to depict the fourteen stations of the cross in a passion play with a difference.

The Revd David Tolhurst vicar of St Matthew’s said: “The local colliery closed more than 40 years ago but people who live here still consider themselves part of a colliery community so we thought it would be a good idea to decorate the trolleys as coal trucks.

“We wanted to spark interest and so we encourage people to be creative with their designs – I think it has been very successful.”