Plans for Sunderland historic church to become £3.4million community arts and culture centre

Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity Church
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PLANS are in place to breathe new life into one of Sunderland’s most historic buildings.

A £3.4million bid has been submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to transform Holy Trinity Church in the East End into a hub of community arts and culture.

Once Sunderland’s thriving parish church, it’s lived through three centuries of tremendous change in the city but is in desperate need of repair.

The Churches Conservation Trust, which took over the church almost 20 years ago, has teamed up with a number of other partners in the city to give the dilapidated building – built in 1719 – a new identity.

Where once it housed Sunderland’s first public library, fire station and magistrates’ court, the plan is for the Grade I listed building to become a visitor attraction, a centre for heritage, learning and performance under the working title Canny Space.

Amanda Gerry, Canny Space development manager from The Churches Conservation Trust, said: “We are a national charity which looks after churches no longer used for worship.

“This is a beautiful Grade I listed building and we want it to become a cultural venue for all of Sunderland, a new visitor attraction where history can come alive through story-telling.

“We’re hoping the HLF will give us the money to repair this amazing building. It’s a very strong bid and we’ve had some amazing support across the city.”

The Canny Space will find out within weeks whether its bid has been successful.

In the meantime, to strengthen its funding application, the site’s been staging a number of cultural events including plays, art projects and a spoken word project with schools across the city.

If the bid is successful, it will pay for restoration to the church which has huge problems with damp. It will also pay for slight adaptations, such as under floor heating and facilities, to make it more visitor friendly.

It is hoped the building work can be completed by spring 2017, with the new-look Holy Trinity opening its doors soon after.

The church has recently been listed on the English Heritage at risk list, which should serve to increase its chances of funding.

As well as being a new arts and culture venue, the church would house the Sunderland Centre for Stories, which would focus on story-telling.

The Churches Conservation Trust is leading the bid after teaming up with Hendon Young People’s Project, Sunderland City Council, Sunderland Libraries Service and Sunderland University.

Building timeline of Holy Trinity

1712 — Local merchants campaign for a new church to be built.

1719 — First recorded baptisms of Primus Barwick and Mary Whiton, on July 25.

1719 — Church consecrated on September 5.

1735 — Near-circular apse with Venetian window added by Daniel Newcombe, as the church initially had no chancel.

1803 — Gallery added. Roof reconstructed by Thomas Wilson and windows re-glazed.

1838 — Memorial erected to The Rev Robert Gray, rector from 1819 to 1838.

1856 — Clockface on tower added.

1842 — Gallery extension constructed, but later removed.

1900 (circa) — Windows re-glazed for the second time.