Striking modern-day stained glass windows are helping to breathe new life into a cafe that pays tribute to the city’s heritage.
Bede’s Bakehouse, to the rear of St Peter’s Church, in Monkwearmouth, has unveiled a bright new look which showcases windows designed by Sunderland University student Rachel Welford.
The first phase of the windows, which chart the seasons, is in place with autumn berries, waves and passages pertaining to St Bede’s study of time and nature, featuring on the 12 windows.
Colour will be added to the panels in the coming weeks as the Bakehouse hopes to entice more visitors through its doors, during day time hours, as well as with a series of evening events.
The cafe is manned by a dedicated group of volunteers, with all profits being ploughed back into church funds, and they say they’re delighted with the changes.
Volunteer Graham Nicol said: “St Peter’s is a prime site in the City of Culture bid as it ties in with the heritage side to the bid. After the council developed the monastic footprint in the garden here, attention turned to the Bakehouse and local artists were invited to submit designs for the windows.”
Speaking about why PhD student Rachel’s designs were chosen, he said: “As part of her application, she researched St Peter’s and delved into Bede’s scientific approach to time. He was so significant in our understanding of time today, and Rachel’s work reflects that.”
Volunteers hope the new windows, along with a refit, will encourage more people to use the cafe, which was opened as a chapter house in 1974 before becoming a cafe almost ten years ago.
Graham added: “We speak to a lot of people, even those living in Roker, who still don’t know we’re here. As part of the changes, the Bakehouse will have its own entrance, instead of people accessing it through the church, so we’re hoping that might help.”
Open daily from 10.30am to 2.30pm, the cafe uses vegetables from its own monastic gardens and honey from on-site bee hives in its menu, which features home-made cakes, salads, quiche, soups, pies and more.
Evening classes in photography and calligraphy are already running on evenings at the Bakehouse, which will be launched as the Bede Hive for its evening offering.
“It really is a beautiful site, but it’s not realising its potential at the moment,” added Graham. “There’s nothing quite like this in the city and we’re hoping more creative groups will use the space.”
•Any creative groups interested in using Bede’s Hive can contact Graham on 0794 0534674.