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Witch marks found carved into 300-year-old Sunderland church to ward off evil

Workers restoring a 300-year-old Sunderland church have uncovered what are believed to be symbols carved into its woodwork to ward off evil.

By Kevin Clark
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 4:55 am

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Restorers converting Holy Trinity Church in the East End into the Seventeen Nineteen event space have uncovered several primitive carvings, believed to be witch marks.

And the carvings have inspired a new exhibition which is being staged at the church.

Witch marks were commonplace from the medieval period until the early 19th century and like those at Holy Trinity, were often made next to windows, doorways and fireplaces, perceived as convenient entrance points for demons, witches and evil spirits.

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They continued to be used as symbols of good luck and protection long after the fear of witchcraft and demons had died out.

Now a collection of ceramics, created by volunteer artist-in-residence Iona Stock and inspired by the marks, is on show in the building until Saturday, May 21.

The dozen hand-thrown ceramic vessels which make up the exhibition reflect the shapes of the marks and the natural erosion within plaster, wood and stone in the church.

Iona Stock believes the witch marks and signs of erosion are as much a part of the church as designs produced by the dozens of craftsmen who worked on the building over the centuries.

Witch marks on a gravestone

“This has been absolutely incredible to work on,” she said.

“The original Georgian décor would have been extremely bright and vibrant and there are elements of that peeking through."

Lily Daniels, Participation and Engagement Officer at Seventeen Nineteen, added: “Holy Trinity is a phenomenal space, full of stories and secrets.

“And the work Iona has produced is just the same; filled with detail, character and fascinating ideas. We’re thrilled to support her work and bring her art to the East End.”

Holy Trinity Church

Audio tours - are available on site and digitally, along with a booklet exploring themes in the work and exploring ways in which emerging artists can engage with and respond to heritage sites.

The exhibition marks the beginning of a three-year programme of University of Sunderland and Sunderland College student-led activities at Seventeen Nineteen.

For more information visit https://www.visitchurches.org.uk/1719/

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A witch mark on a beam
Work in progress
Some of the finished artworks