Volunteers and visitors wanted at world-renowned St Peter’s Church
Sunderland’s most important historical site needs more local people to help out, as well as pay more visits.
St Peter’s Church in Monkwearmouth holds national and international interest. It was first built in AD 674 and some parts of it are original.
It was founded by St Benedict Biscop before the Vikings invaded, almost 400 years before the Norman invasion and nearly 1,000 years before Oliver Cromwell’s rule. The “new” tower was built in the 10th century.
It’s global importance to Christianity was established by the Venerable Bede, who entered the monastery soon after it was built.
Despite this it has rarely, if ever been visited by many local people. But now a volunteer at the church wants to change all that.
Peter Turton is a tour guide there each Monday, but sometimes finds himself reading a book to pass the time, even though schools can visit for as little as a pound-a-head.
The church wants to encourage more visitors, but needs volunteers first, particularly on Saturdays when it is currently unable to open.
Peter said: “If we had more volunteers we could do more in the way of school visits. We’ve lost a couple of volunteers recently. It’s not such a good experience for schools without them.
“That’s the main thing. More volunteers so we can do more with schools. I can sit there on as Monday and no one come in for hours on end. We’re here for the public as well as for education.”
Peter moved to Sunderland four years ago from Pickering, North Yorkshire with his wife. He thinks native North Easterners might be taking the church for granted and not know what a treat they’re missing.
He added: “It’s a bit frustrating and some people we know have never been, or it’s the first time they’ve been here. When you’re an outsider you can see things a bit differently. It’s really just anything to spread the word about what we’ve got.”
The church is open Monday to Friday 10.30am to 2.30pm. Bede's Bakehouse cafe open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, same times.
Anyone interested in volunteering as a guide can contact Peter at [email protected], or on 07500 352103. Schools or individuals who would like to visit can email [email protected], or call 0191 516 0135.