Plea to protect historic Victorian chapel in Sunderland's Bishopwearmouth Cemetery as its condition worsens

Residents are urging the council to restore an historic Sunderland chapel which has fallen into a terrible state of repair.

By Katy Wheeler
Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 9:40 am

The Anglican chapel in Bishopwearmouth Cemetery is boarded up and crumbling due to decades of neglect.

Dating back to 1856, it was once at the heart of the cemetery, along with its sister site which was built as a non-conformist chapel. While the latter burnt down a number of years ago, the Anglican chapel is still standing, but has been fenced off due to its bad state.

The Grade II-listed structure is passed by dozens of dog-walkers and people visiting the cemetery every day, and residents have approached William Blackett, Councillor for St Chad’s ward, to raise their concerns about losing this piece of Sunderland’s heritage.

Coun William Blackett in front of the dilapidated Anglican chapel in Bishopwearmouth Cemetery.

He’s already pushed the council to take action two years ago and is appealing once more for something to be done to safeguard the church.

Speaking to the Echo, Cllr Blackett said: “Residents of Sunderland often express regret at the loss of so many of our historic buildings in the decades since the end of the Second World War with the Town Hall and the old train station often getting mentioned.

"Yet even in more recent years the heritage of the city has been under threat. Last year saw the demolition of buildings at Dixon’s Square described by Victoria County History as the last traces of eighteenth century Monkwearmouth, the place that had been the home of Samuel Peter Austin the eponymous founder of one half of what would go on to be Austin and Pickersgill the shipbuilder.

"The chapel in Bishopwearmouth Cemetery may be the next to be lost to the people of the city unless action is taken.”

Coun Blackett has been approached by a number of residents about the state of the chapel.

To add to its significance, some of the city’s shining lights are buried around the chapel including the grave erected in honour of George Maling, the only Sunderland soldier decorated with the Victoria Cross after he helped save the lives of 300 men in the First World War.

Other graves include that of James Hartley, the Conservative MP for the town from 1865-1868, and members of the Vaux family, as well as Sir Theodore Doxford of Doxford’s shipyard.

A spokeswoman for Sunderland City Council said: “We are aware of the issues raised about the chapel at Bishopwearmouth Cemetery and discussions are ongoing regarding the condition the building.”

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The chapel has been fenced off for safety reasons.

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The chapel has been neglected for a number of years.
The grave of George Maling, the only Sunderland soldier decorated with the Victoria Cross, is in the shadow of the chapel.
The chapel requires work to return it to a stable condition