Community campaigners have won their fight to save the organ from Sunderland’s oldest parish church being sold off to Germany.
A planning application for the removal of the organ from Holy Trinity Church, in the city’s East End, has now been withdrawn after the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) bowed to calls from upset residents, with more than 650 objections lodged against the proposal.
The trust is working towards turning the church into the Canny Space community venue, a project which won £2.8million from the Heritage Lottery Fund last year.
It had planned to take out the organ and sell it to a German company, allowing it to carry out essential work in that area of the building, which has stood since 1719.
That saw a Save Our Heritage appeal launched by members of the ‘Sunderland - East End and Hendon Born and Bred’ Facebook group, who said removing the instrument from the church would be the next stage in turning it into a “glorified community centre.”
The TCCT previously said the position of the organ presents challenges to building repairs and would cost £97,500 to take down, store and reinstall.
I think that under the pressure, they buckled.Denise Craig
The issue was due to be discussed at a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s Development Control (South Sunderland) Sub-Committee on onday - but the CCT has now withdrawn the application.
The CCT said: “In light of concerns from the local community, The Churches Conservation Trust has withdrawn its application for Listed Building Consent to permanently remove the organ from Holy Trinity Church in Sunderland’s East End.
“In the New Year we will hold a number of meetings to discuss the organ, where people can find out more about the project and raise any concerns they have.
“Grade I listed Holy Trinity dates back to 1719 but was closed for regular worship in 1988. “The building is on the national ‘Heritage at Risk’ register and its nave is currently a hard hat only space.
“Funding was recently confirmed for a £4 million project to save Holy Trinity, Sunderland’s first parish church, and give it a sustainable new future as a cultural and community centre.”
The announcement comes after campaigners were given the chance to go into the church so it could carry out an independent assessment by John Ollett.
While there organist Steven Middleton was given the chance to put it to the test by playing it.
Denise Craig, who has helped lead the campaign, said: “We are over the moon, ecstatic.
“When we heard it played the other day, we were quite shocked with how good it was, considering.
“We were all reduced to tears, we honestly didn’t expect it because it hasn’t been used as a church for so long.
“We want to sincerely thank anybody who has supported us, written letters, signed the petition, lodged an objection, because it has been a tough time and our heads have been battered, but it’s been worth it.”