Decision day looms over future of historic Sunderland church organ

Susan Mulvaney and Denise Craig petition campaign to save the organ at Holy Trinity Church.
Susan Mulvaney and Denise Craig petition campaign to save the organ at Holy Trinity Church.

More than 650 objections have been lodged over plans to remove a historic organ from a Sunderland church and ship it to Germany.

The Churches Conservation Trust (TCCT) wants to remove the instrument from the  grade-one listed Holy Trinity Church in the East End.

The inside of Holy Trinity Church.

The inside of Holy Trinity Church.

This forms part of a scheme to bring the building  into use as community venue ‘Canny Space’ – a project which won £2.8million from the Heritage Lottery Fund last year.

Campaigners from the Save Our Heritage appeal, who launched by the East End and Hendon Born and Bred Facebook group, are calling for the organ plans to be scrapped.

Alongside a 572-signature petition, Sunderland City Council has received 82 objection letters over the plans.

Campaigners state they want to preserve the heritage of the building which served as Sunderland’s first parish church, a magistrates court and a public library.

Holy Trinity Church.

Holy Trinity Church.

While planning officers have backed plans to remove the organ, the final decision will be made by councillors next week.

The organ was previously grade-II listed but ‘de-listed’ in 2017 following a review by the British Institute of Organ Studies which considered it to be of “low significance”.

Read more: Hands off! Fight to stop historic Sunderland church organ being lost to Germany

It is also said to contain parts dating back to 1889.

However, a council report states the organ makes “minimal contribution to the exceptional architectural and historic interest of Holy Trinity Church” and will not cause harm to its status.

It adds the plans will be “beneficial” by  “enabling essential repair works and wider Canny Space regeneration project to be delivered.”

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.

If plans are approved by councillors, the trust has arranged for a firm to install the organ in a church in south-west Germany.

A final decision will be made by the Development Control Sub-Committee (South Sunderland) on Monday, December 17 at Sunderland Civic Centre.

The meeting starts at 4pm in committee room one.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service