Sunderland's Holy Trinity Church saved from collapse by £2.8million National Lottery grant

The transformation of one of Sunderland's most important historic buildings has taken a major step forward after securing a £2.8million National Lottery grant.

Tuesday, 27th March 2018, 11:08 am
Updated Tuesday, 27th March 2018, 11:11 am
Holy Trinity Church has been at risk of collapse

Holy Trinity Church in the East End has been given the major boost after The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) were successful in match funding the amount.

Work will now begin in April 2019 to breathe new life into the Grade I-listed building, with crucial repairs and renovation work to its crumbling structure to transform it into a cultural centre named The Canny Space, which will be used for community events, music, performance, crafts and storytelling.

The former church was once at the heart of Sunderland

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In total, the transformation of Holy Trinity will cost £4.3million. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) news comes after CCT raised £1million of match funding, as well as a further £30,000 in community donations. A remaining £20,000 needs to be raised through a crowd-funding campaign, but HLF are confident the project will secure the final amount through a public appeal.

Peter Aiers, chief executive of The Churches Conservation Trust, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have received this National Lottery support for this transformative project. The Canny Space will make a real difference to people’s lives in the East End of Sunderland, one of Britain’s most economically deprived areas.

“It will play a significant role in the city’s cultural resurgence and rightfully celebrate the fascinating stories of Sunderland’s past and present. We’d like to extend our thanks to HLF for this award and to all those who have helped fund and support this project to date.”

In recent times, Holy Trinity had fallen into such a state of disrepair it was placed on Historic England’s ‘at risk’ register, but it was once at the heart of the then town.

Dave Stewart inspecting some of the major structural work which needs to be done to save Holy Trinity

Built in 1719 near the town’s busy docks, the building housed the city’s first public library, civic rooms, Magistrates’ Court and even the local fire engine, as well as serving as the parish church. It was used and loved by countless people. But gradually the city centre shifted and Holy Trinity fell out of use, leading to the CCT taking it over in 1988.

The new project, part of a 15-year cultural strategy set out by The Sunderland Cultural Partnership, will give the historic building a new life. It will provide a space for local people to meet, collaborate, create and develop life-changing skills. There will be an on-going programme of community events and professional performances and visitors to the site will also be able to see and hear stories of Sunderland’s past.

The project is supported by Sunderland-born award-winning musician and producer Dave Stewart, of Eurythmics fame, who will be creative director of The Canny Space.

The Canny Space has already hosted and supported local musicians, artists and makers as part of a consultation and development period. This July a new artwork by Wearside artist Matt Stokes and members of the local community will be installed on-site in Sunderland’s East End during the Tall Ships celebrations.

The former church was once at the heart of Sunderland

Explaining the importance of National Lottery support, the HLF’s chief executive Ros Kerslake, said: “Heritage makes a place distinctive and with the right investment and a good business plan, it has the power to transform an area physically and economically. Holy Trinity has always been more than a place of worship, it was the beating civic heart of Sunderland’s East End and will be again thanks to players of the National Lottery.”

•To donate to the final £20,000 needed to save Holy Trinity Church visit

Dave Stewart inspecting some of the major structural work which needs to be done to save Holy Trinity