Veteran Sunderland volunteer receives award for decades of service to historic church
An unsung community hero has gained national recognition after decades of lovingly tending to an historic church.
William Dove, 84, has watched over Holy Trinity Church, in Church Street East, Sunderland, from his nearby East End flat for 31 years and has even rushed out overnight to tackle leaks during storms.
He continues to tend its gardens even while the building is closed during an ongoing £4.3m repair programme.
Now his efforts have been acknowledged with a Volunteer of the Year (North) award at the Churches Conservation Trust’s (CCT) Volunteer of the Year Awards in Birmingham.
A modest William said: “I don’t look after the church for the awards or thanks. I don’t really like a big fuss.
“This is an unexpected surprise and I feel very honoured to receive this on behalf of all the volunteers who help care for this amazing building.”
Originally from Ryhope, William spotted the church for the first time when visiting Hendon as a teenager to buy tar for his father’s pigeon cree.
The former farmworker, steelworker and chemical specifier later began to take an active interest in the building after he was invited to a service and remembers: “I can just remember seeing the weeds down the side and the cobwebs inside the church.
“It was a congregation of spiders.”
Judith Patrick, head of the CCT’s north region, said: “The awards are a terrific opportunity to give special thanks to those who went the extra mile this year, as nominated by staff and peers.
“William Dove makes an exceptional contribution to Holy Trinity and deserves special recognition.”
Tracey Mienie, who is CCT’s centre manager at Holy Trinity, added: “William has a heart of gold and goes the extra mile without making a fuss.”
William even shares his birthday – September 4 – with the church’s 1719 consecration date.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund-supported work will repair its fabric and allow it to host a variety of events from this November.
William added: “To me it is the heart of old Sunderland and its castle. It has been court rooms, council offices, a public library and even kept a fire engine.”