IT’s official – St Andrew’s is one of the UK’s favourite churches.
The Roker Edwardian church, built in 1907, has been named one of 60 top churches in the country.
It was chosen by Sir Thomas Allen to be submitted for the National Churches Trust’s 60th anniversary campaign, to highlight some of the country’s most important and best loved buildings.
The world-renowned opera singer, who hails from Seaham Harbour, said he picked St Andrew’s because it is “a most beautiful example of great craftsmanship.”
He added: “There are many instances of the Arts and Crafts Movement in our country, but the greater part of the work lies mostly in southern counties.
“To walk into this solid stone church in Sunderland and examine the fine details of its construction is a rare Northern delight.
“Good woodwork, decorative metalwork, and whether it’s a Morris carpet or small details of the door furniture the whole place is a beautiful example of craftsmanship.
“That it was commissioned by a local shipping man for that small parish speaks volumes about the community.”
St Andrew’s was funded by John Priestman in the early 20th Century, owner of a shipyard at Castletown, who donated £6,000 to its construction.
The Reverend Dick Bradshaw, team rector at Monkwearmouth Parish, said he is not surprised it has been picked as one of the 60 favourite churches by the panel of public figures, which includes Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour party leader Ed Miliband, Joanna Lumley, and presenter Eamonn Holmes.
“St Andrew’s has been noted for a long time for its arts and history,” he told the Echo.
“We have half a dozen or so visitors to the church every week who come to look at the design and architecture.
“I believe it has also appeared in a book of the top 100 churches in the country.”
Rev Bradshaw said the parish was informed the church had been chosen by email.
“We got it a few weeks ago,” he added. “We were surprised, but everyone is thrilled.
“We are quite a unique church, and I think more locally this may help the church to become more widely known.”
The church celebrated its centenary in 2007, and was visited by opera singer Aled Jones, and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber – also one of the 60 people to pick their favourite church.
“Sir Andrew commented on the church and said how impressed he by it,” said Rev Bradshaw.
“We also have a Friends of St Andrew’s group which Kate Adie, the journalist, is patron of.
“It will be good for people from Sunderland to know we have this title because it is their church really. It is the city’s church.”