Old Print hanging in Choir Vestry. Click for enlargement
Located in the Choir Vestry. CLICK  TO ENLARGE
In the Choir vestry.  CLICK  TO ENLARGE
 Saxon artifacts in the Weat Porch  CLICK  TO ENLARGE
Seating Plan  Hanging in the Choir vestry CLICK  TO ENLARGE
Hudson Lectern. In the North Transept  CLICK  TO ENLARGE
20th century renovation drawing CLICK  TO ENLARGE
Middleton Tomb in the South Transept CLICK  TO ENLARGE
The beautiful chairs pictured here and in the next frame were made by a parishioner, Andrew Newton, in memory of his wife, Josephine CLICK TO ENLARGE
These are just one example of the several items of furniture that Andy has created for us.See next two frames also. CLICK TO ENLARGE  
Restaurant   CLICK  TO ENLARGE
Dais & Chancel   CLICK  TO ENLARGE
West window   CLICK  TO ENLARGE
The "Long" Font   CLICK  TO ENLARGE
 Towards Tower and West Door & Window CLICK  TO ENLARGE
 Old Font in the west Porch CLICK  TO ENLARGE
Arcading in the Chancel   CLICK  TO ENLARGE
In the West Porch  CLICK  TO ENLARGE
John Wesley Picture hanging in the choir vestry CLICK  TO ENLARGE
North aspect  CLICK  TO ENLARGE
Post-mediaeval chancel   CLICK  TO ENLARGE


  Long known as Bishopwearmouth Parish Church, our church can boast a long history and has seen many changes, the most recent of which -- perhaps the greatest - is its elevation to Minster status some years ago, a decision which caused some dispute when it was heralded as the first  Minster to be created since the reformation. Now the parish itself has been broken up - Sad, but we must move on! The church continues, but with a 'congregation' rather than a parish - and there is no doubt that something of the parish spirit has been lost! 

 Some time ago it also adopted St Hilda as another patron, following the demolition of that daughter church, and with Minster status has come a further dedication, St Benedict Biscop - as the 'Patron Saint' of the City of Sunderland. For some reason, St Hilda seems to have been dropped!

 7:53 am on 3/1/10   Some would say that  this rather modest little church building struggles to justify8:35 0n 3/1/10 grandeur of its title - and in many respects I would have to agree. Nevertheless, despite that relative modesty, the parish and church of Bishopwearmouth had a history stretching back a thousand years and more.


A Brief History....

(extracted from a booklet written by Mrs Jackie Hart)


The early history of the Church of St. Michael consists largely of unanswered questions, some local legend and possibly a little wishful thinking. Actual facts, supported by historical evidence are sadly thin on the ground and during the period of early Christianity in the Wearmouth area, it is the Monastery of St. Peter on the north side of the river which takes all the glory, so to speak, being well-documented. 

The general inclination is to believe that the original stone church would have been built  in about 934 to 940, although it has been said that as these were still troubled times it would not have been until nearer the end of the century. There is no proof and it is not until 1214 that we find any record of a rector for Bishopwearmouth, the first being named as Philip of Poictiers, followed by Adam de Marisco (or Marsh) in 1217. Some of the more wary have taken this as the date of the first church, but there are indications that it was earlier. 

In the almost total lack of historical evidence, there has been one discovery which merely adds to the confusion. During some excavation work in the 1930's three carved stones were discovered, apparently of Saxon origin. The British Museum was consulted and authorities there concluded that they are undoubtedly examples of late Saxon work, being crudely executed and dating from a time when skilled craftsmen and their old techniques had vanished during the troubled times of the 9th and 10th Centuries. The stones are apparently from a Saxon grave., and if they denote the presence of a church then they would seem to confirm the theory of a late 10th Century construction.

We cannot know either, exactly what that early church may have looked like. The first visual representations of the building date from the 18th Century and  comparisons  produce certain inconsistencies (notably in the structure of the tower and also in the relative proportions of the different parts) so it is still difficult to make positive architectural analysis or to draw definite conclusions. However, one researcher considers that the tower could quite possibly have been Saxon, judging by its proportion, string courses and narrow round headed windows.  

Originally it would have consisted simply of the nave and the tower. In about 1300 the extension was built, in late Early English style, leaving little of the original but the tower and the arches. The nave was rebuilt to include the north and the south aisles, and the chancel was added, with the high pointed arch between it and the nave. In the pictures mentioned we can see how relatively long the chancel was, according to the custom of that time. 

 Over the years, with all the changes that have been made, the furniture in Bishopwearmouth Church has been lost, with two exceptions:-   

                In 1925 a neglected and forgotten pulpit was found at the Wesleyan Mission in Trimdon Street; at some time it had been painted and latterly had been standing in the open, exposed to the weather, but upon investigation it proved to be the old pulpit from St. Michael's. It had been replaced in about 1808 and had originally been transferred to St. Andrew's Mission at Deptford, before finding its way to Trimdon Street. On it were carved the date 1632 and the initials R.P., which possibly referred to Robert Pattison who was a considerable yeoman farmer at the time; he may have been a churchwarden, and as such would have been largely responsible for the installation of the new furnishings. 

In spite of the pulpit's sorry state it was found possible to restore the four carved hardwood panels, and these were incorporated into a new altar table which can now be seen in the church's Bede Chapel. There are also still two high backed pews which very probably date from the same time. 

( N.B. I am grateful to Mr Trevor Cooper, who has seen my pictures of these pews and comments:-

  " The whole seat has been assembled from different bits and pieces. The back carving is, as far as I can tell from the photograph, of 17th century date. The back is made up of two different pieces, and could be from the backs of old pews. I can't tell the date of the arm pieces, but they might just be from the early choir stalls I mentioned to you (though it's hard to tell from the photo). The right hand one has been cut down, which is a little odd. Obviously the seat was created with a view to preserving the various items, as part of the history of the church.  "
D H )

These first furnishings would have been paid for out of the parish rates and also a special Church Rate levied specifically for the purpose, although many householders would have been too poor to pay. The new pews were allocated to those who had contributed and the payment of 4d. secured a seat for the rest of the occupant's life, although he did not own it and when he died the right might either pass to another member of his family, or be sold. The churchwardens were responsible for the organisation and allocation of seating and plans were drawn up accordingly. There still exists a copy of the seating plan headed "A List of the Seats in Bishopwearmouth Church as they were at first and also in the year 1658", which we might reasonably assume is the first plan drawn up for the newly installed pews, in or about 1632, including, as it implies, any changes which had occurred by 1658. The 233 seats were shared out between 121 parishioners and their families.

Until the time of the Civil War the church probably remained basically unchanged, but then it apparently suffered some damage, although not as much as the Rectory.  In 1661 the new climate of the Restoration brought Robert Grey to Bishopwearmouth as Rector, and vestry books from that time show that he was responsible for a number of repairs in the church; we find listed expenses for the purchase and carriage of timber and lead; for a new font cover and bell ropes; for mending the clock, mending windows, flagging part of the floor and erecting new guttering.

Later, in 1771, nine windows were removed and remade, as shown in Grimm's drawing and in about 1792 the old north entrance was stopped up and two new doorways built on the south and west sides.  

The year 1805 found the Reverend Robert Gray as Rector (later to be Bishop of Bristol) and his church by this time is reported as having been in a terrible state of disrepair. It was draughty and leaking, and one account claimed that during the winter snow drifted in at one end of the building and out at the other! It was also far too small for the growing population and Gray's zeal and enthusiasm to adapt to contemporary needs was such that many critics later condemned the changes he made as little short of vandalism. On 5th November of that year there was a meeting of parishioners and the need for an enlargement scheme was unanimously agreed upon. The Rector, the 12 vestrymen and a committee of 26 were appointed to take the scheme in hand and a Durham architect, Mr. Christopher Ebdon, was subsequently contacted. A scheme to seat about 1,250 was accepted and subscriptions raised to a total of 1,300 and in 1806 the old church was virtually demolished, to be replaced by a rather severe looking Georgian building. 

It had apparently been intended to save the old tower, but it was found to be unsafe; the walls and arches of the nave were to be removed for the reconstruction and being the tower's only support this would have caused it to collapse. So in 1807 it was rebuilt, and the turrets added two years later. 

In 1808 the chancel arch was carefully dismantled, every stone being numbered and the whole thing re-erected 24 feet to the east, reducing the chancel to the proportions we see today. The nave had been lit by clerestory windows, above the height of the aisles, but now, removing the Gothic arches, the north and south walls were built up to a height to accommodate galleries along each side and the new, plain sash windows reputedly left the interior rather gloomy. The south doorway was blocked up and replaced by a new west entrance under the tower. All was contrived to allow the maximum pew space throughout, as seating plans of the time show. The chancel was ready for use within the year, a new organ installed in the west gallery at a cost of 425 in 1809, a set of six bells hung in the belfrey and the entire work completed by 1810. 

It is known that the old pulpit was removed at about this time, as Gray replaced it with a grand three tiered fixture, but that it has been restored to the church as previously described.

By 1848, as the commercial life of the area flourished and the population increased, it was found once again that the demand for pews was greater than the provision, and with the custom of renting pews to the wealthier members of the community, there was very little free seating at all for the ordinary townspeople. The new Rector in 1849 was Dr. John Eden, and he and his vestrymen proposed the idea of building transepts. The Newcastle architect John Dobson submitted a design which provided another 550 seatings and this was put into operation and finished in 1850 at a cost of 500, the roof undergoing repairs in the process. Costs must have been offset to some extent by the pew rents, for it is recorded that the new pews in the transept galleries cost 40 each for the four front rows and then 36, 32 and 28 respectively, behind these. 

Also in 1850 James Hartley, the local glass manufacturer, donated a stained-glass west window which unfortunately was later destroyed in a gale.  

By 1872, during Canon Cockin's time, another problem had arisen. Although burials in vaults beneath the church had been forbidden since 1854, there were about 53 such vaults beneath St. Michael's and their insanitary condition was causing considerable unpleasantness in the church.  

In about 1887, the new organ loft on the north side of the chancel and a larger vestry were built, and two large safes installed for the safe keeping of such things as registers and the church plate. 

Following the 1914-18 war, a folding oak door was installed at the west end of the nave as a memorial to the 72 men of the parish who gave their lives in the conflict. The door was unveiled by the Bishop of Durham in January, 1922. 

The beautifully carved lectern which stands at present in the North Transept was given to the church as a memorial to Major Robert Hudson in 1925. He had been in the belfry muffling the bells for a funeral peal when one of them swung down from its vertical position and struck him a fatal blow. Both Major Hudson and his father had served the church as leading bellringers for well over 60 years. 

Early this century the church underwent its final large-scale renovation, which amounted to a virtual re-building and improved it almost beyond recognition. It had become increasingly apparent that colliery subsidence was seriously affecting the fabric of the building and by the time Prebendary Wynne Willson was appointed Rector in 1923 alarming cracks had appeared in numerous places, to such an extent that in 1927 a survey was carried out by the firm of Cackett and Burns Dick, of Newcastle. It seems that in view of their report it was not considered necessary to take immediate action to save the church at that point, but after three more years of continued deterioration the matter became all too obviously urgent; if it was to be saved, the nave and aisles would have to be rebuilt. Considering the rather gloomy and dated appearance of the building it may have been regarded as a welcome opportunity, but the cost of a rebuilding scheme seemed prohibitive. However, sufficient funds were eventually gathered, with a gift of 30,000 from Sir John Priestman, 5,000 compensation from the relevant colliery owners and some 10,000 in local subscriptions, as well as a grant from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

The architects Caroe and Pasmore of Westminster were consulted and finally, in 1932, the new scheme was started. Alban Caroe was generally considered to be the greatest Gothicist of his time and his transformation of St. Michael's must readily bear out that reputation. The architect Pevsner has written admiringly of his restoration of the church's Gothic character and praises his sensitive use of contemporary materials, especially as the work is on a scale rarely found in 20th Century churches. 

The Early English east end was retained but renovated and the tower was refaced, but the nave and aisles were demolished. Now the nave was lit once again through windows above the level of the aisles, and the lost gallery space compensated by the additional side-aisles which gave the body of the church unusually square, almost cathedral-like proportions, while the transepts with their small galleries were retained. The style and construction of the stonework and general decoration, and the blend of the old and new, give the interior its individual atmosphere, and of particular note was an elegant and intricately carved oak screen, with which the architect extended the chancel, restoring it to its ancient proportions without actually altering the structure. The nave and chancel are in fact not in strict alignment, as the chancel slants slightly to the south; this is sometimes known as a "Weeping Chancel", as it is said to represent the drooping head of Christ on the Cross. The east window at this time was of five lights of fine stained-glass, which had previously been installed in memory of Dr. Eden, but unfortunately this was to be subsequently shattered by the explosion of a war-time bomb which landed only yards from the south-east corner of the church. It was replaced in 1950 by the existing window, the symbolism of which is explained elsewhere. 

At this time the Middleton tomb and effigy, described by Hutchinson in the 18th Century, was re-discovered. It seems that at some point it had been moved (possibly because it was occupying valuable pew space) and had lain for a while in the church porch, broken in two pieces, before apparently disappearing. It was now found, buried beneath the gallery stairs at the west end. It has been re-assembled, although most of the detail is missing, and can only be imagined as it once was, from earlier descriptions. It now stands in the south transept, far from the family vault. 

The organ was rebuilt and the old organ cases redesigned to fit their new position. The small Bede Chapel was added to the south of the chancel and the new altar with its Jacobean carved panels installed as already mentioned. Also dating from this time are the four stone figures of the Saints Michael, George, Aidan and Cuthbert, set into the walls at various points, which were modelled by a Mr. Cameron of London. The new building was finally consecrated by the Bishop of Durham in June, 1935. 

It is evident from certain letters and drawings that another architect, a Mr. Hodgson-Fowler of Durham (who had also designed Christ Church in 1864) submitted plans for another, less ambitious, renovation scheme as early as 1908 and that Caroe and Pasmore were also consulted at about this time. It seems that there was some difference of opinion about the merits of Mr. Hodgson-Fowler's proposals and apparently they were subsequently shelved, although there is no clear indication of the reason. Whatever the story behind them, it is interesting to see the drawings of the church as it might have been today, if Caroe had not later been commissioned instead. Also we can see from drawings still in the church's possession that a slightly different scheme, with a larger capacity, was also proposed by Caroe and Pasmore before the one ultimately adopted. 

Today we find circumstances have taken another turnabout and the new church, designed to house 1,200, with its parish only a fraction of its original size and the main residential areas now away from the town centre, is too big for today's need. So once again changes have been made to adapt to society's demands, by adjusting this time not the building's capacity but its function.  

During 1981 further alterations were made to provide facilities for the Action in Retirement project and the major change was the introduction of the oak partitions which now enclose the outer aisles on each side. On the south side are now the restaurant and kitchen, and on the north the lounge and meeting rooms with storage space beneath, and it is interesting to see that the reduced worship area is restored to the cruciform shape that existed between 1850 and 1932. Another change has been implemented by the removal of the oak screen which extended and enclosed the western end of the chancel, although the impression of additional length has been retained by the use of the raised platform on which the nave altar stands.  

Sections of the carved woodwork from the screen have been incorporated into the new doorways at the west end of the aisles and also against the back wall of the small gallery beneath the tower. Great care has been taken to create a harmony between the old and the new, and the new oak partitions blend comfortably with the generally Gothic air of the interior. The worship area is now of a size more in keeping with the size and nature of the present day parish, and the new facilities mean that Bishopwearmouth Church has once again become more involved in the life of the community which it serves. 

                                                                   Jackie Hart.



Since the war the face of the parish has changed significantly. The local Council began to redevelop the western side of the town centre; large areas of terraced houses were cleared and the population re-housed on the growing estates on the perimeter of the town centre. They were replaced with a modern shopping area, the leisure centre, the Polytechnic and most recently with landscaped park areas. 

This change in the character of the parish has been reflected in the life of the church. Over the last 30 years, the church has seen its own domestic life change; from being the centre of a thriving domestic community, it found itself left behind by the tide of redevelopment. A new style of mission and ministry was required. 

Winds of change were, however, blowing in other areas of the church in the Anglican Deanery of Wearmouth. In 1970 Bishop Ian Ramsay initiated a commission to examine the work of the Deanery. One of the recommendations was the appointment of a Bishop to act as leader of a team ministry which would include all Anglican clergy. To facilitate this, benefices were suspended as they became vacant. Bishop Skelton, formerly Bishop of Matabeleland in Rhodesia, Rector of Bishopwearmouth and Rural Dean from 1970, was responsible for implementing the Commission's proposals. 

In 1975 Timothy Tyndall was appointed as Rural Dean to succeed Bishop Skelton, to spend the major part of his time as Rural Dean and simultaneously to be Priest in Charge of Bishopwearmouth. By this time, the growing importance of the deanery as a unit was very apparent and it took more and more of the Rural Dean's time and energy. This meant that the mission and ministry of the ancient parish church became increasingly the responsibility of assistant clergy.  With the arrival of Timothy Tyndall as Rural Dean it was decided to appoint a second priest as a town centre chaplain to develop the ministry of the parish church in relation to the town centre.

Eric Shegog was appointed in January, 1976. His work grew in two ways: first by developing a ministry to different sections of the town centre life, in retailing, the Theatre, the Polytechnic and the Art Centre; secondly' by extending the use of the church to include mid-week activities, lunch time forum, concerts, special services, drama and exhibitions. In this context, the Church Council responded to a request from Age Concern, Sunderland, to use part of the building for work with retired people. A major re-ordering of the building commenced in May, 1981 and was concluded in December, 1981

 The architect, Mr. Ian Curry, of Charlewood, Curry and Atkinson, has achieved a harmonious blend of new and old in a very imaginative way. The removal of the chancel screen has preserved the sense of spaciousness and the high quality of materials and workmanship has enhanced the first class work done by Caroe in the 1933-1935 alterations.

Once again, the parish church has adapted and responded to the needs of a changing world. The congregation now has a building suited to meet the demands of the next decade.


Eric Shegog.


About The East Window........



Designed by D.M.Grant in 195(replacing one destroyed by enemy action in World war 2)


The Wording

The window contains the words of the Apostle' Creed. Only two phrases have been omitted :- "He descended into hell" and "To judge both the quick and the dead". Pictorial representations link the ascended Christ, St. Michael and the Mercantile Marine with other references to the city of Sunderland and the Diocese of Durham.


Central Panel (from the top)

The hand of God, representing God the Father, is surrounded by marks of the creation - the sun, moon, stars and the firmament

From the hand flows the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove pointing to Christ in Glory, the Cross, and the Tree and Water of Life. The design of the throne is based on St John's description in the Book of Revelation.

Round the throne are the seraphim and a choir of angels while the four Evangelists (coloured in blue) are represented by their personal insignia:

St. John.......................an eagle

St. Mark.......................a lion

St. Matthew................a winged man

St. John....................... a bull


The Apostles are identifiable by the items which they carry. Many of these objects are in some way connected with the manner of their deaths while others have been passed down to us through various Christian traditions :-


Left (next to centre)   

St. Simon Zelotes - bald with a beard and holding a saw. he was martyred by being sawn in half longitudinally.

St. Bartholomew - young with a small beard holding a flaying knife.

St. Thomas - holding a spear. Sometimes he holds  carpenter's square and is therefore the patron of Masons.


Left (outer) 

St James the Less - holding a fuller's club with which he was beaten to death.

St Philip - carries a foliated cross - an emblem of martyrdom. The cross is sometimes upside down as he was crucified head downwards.


Right (next to centre)

St. Jude - holds a club

St Matthias - carries a chopper which probably signifies his style of martyrdom.

St Peter - an old man with thick hair holding keys.

St James the Great - the patron of pilgrims holds a shell

St Andrew - the patron saint of Scotland with the saltire cross depicting his martyrdom.


St Michael (right)

The saint to whom the Minster is dedicated is the personification of immortal service to God. St John tells how Michael led the heavenly host and overcame the devil and the forces of evil, represented by the dragon at his feet. he has wings and feathered armour, carries a spear and shield bearing the cross, his head is surrounded by a flaming halo.


St Nicholas (left)

The patron saint of sailors and one time Bishop of Myra holds a merchant ship and has a rope and anchor at his feet. His presence in the window refers to the close connection of the City of Sunderland with theshipping industry.


The Two Coats of Arms

On the left that of the bishops of Durham places the Minster in its Anglican Diocese.

On the right that of the town of Sunderland. Since the charter granting city status came into being this has been modified. 




 ........And the WEST WINDOW


designed for Christ Church, Bishopwearmouth by William Morris & Co  1856

rededicated in Sunderland Minster 2003 


Mr W.T.Bell decided to gift the East window to Christ Church, Ryhope Road, Sunderland in memory of his uncle W.Bell Esq. Under the direction of the archotect, Mr. E.R.Robson, Messrs Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co of London were commissioned to supply the window. This company was made up of a collection of brilliant but unconventional men who came together under the direction of William Morris and designed furniture, wallpaper and glass.


William Morris was born in 1834 at Walthamstow, his father being a wealthy stockbroker. The family soon moved to Woodford Hall where William spent his childhood. He read widely and took an interest in the arts, literature and nature: trees and flowers were a dominant theme of his early wallpaper designs.


At Marlborough College, rather against his family's evangelical tradition William encountered the Tractarian Movement, a high church body, and on leaving college he began to make plans to train for the ordained ministry. He soon joined a group f like-minded fellows, among them Edward Burne-Jones and, much to his family's dismay, decided to become an architect


Over the next few years Morris gathered around him a number of talented friends who together designed a wide range of furniture, decorations and household articles.


It was the making of stained glass that soon became the group's specialism and in 1861 they formalised the association as Morris & Co with William Morris as director, the other members being Ford Madox-Brown, Philip Webb and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Their style was to design a biblical scene in a square panel of stained glass and then use these pictures in different combinations in various churches. Many of the panels therefore can be seen in other churches churches but the combination is unique.



Originally in Christ Church the ten scenes were arranged in two horizontal rows of five: they are now in three vertical groups.



From the top left moving downwards -

         "The Nativity" by Burne-Jones one of the most popular designs made by the company.

         "The Adoration of the Magi" again by Burne-Jones and used first in 1864 in Amington, Staffs.

         "The baptism of Christ" also by Burne-Jones, used in St. Michael's Brighton in 1862 and also at Gatcombe on the Isle of Wight


From the top centre moving downwards -

         "The Wedding Feast at Cana" by William Morris and first used in 1861 at Cranbourne near Windsor.

         "The Sermon on the Mount" by Rossetti which, in selsley is the central section of a bigger three-light window.

         "The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes" by Morris thought to have been used for the first time in this window but later also used in Meole Brace near Shrewsbury.

         "Christ's Blessing of the Children" by Madox-Brown and first used in Cranbourne.


The panels on the right-hand side are all by William Morris

         "The Last  Supper" at the top was first used at Gatcombe

         "The Marys at the Empty Tomb" used at St. Mary's Brighton

         "The Ascension" first used in the chapel of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford.


The top central Agnus Dei (Lamb holding a flag) is the work of Philip Webb and is found in most of the company's windows.

The roundels of angels are only two included from eight in the original Christ Church window; a constriction of the different shape of the two pieces of architecture.


The distinctive lightness of the colour used by Morris and his friends contrasts starkly with contemporary Victorian glass with its darker deeper colours.


So at the beginning of 2003 it was possible to install and re-dedicate in Sunderland Minster a wonderful example of the work of a group of brilliant men who changed the course of art and design in this country.






 More recently, the fabric of the church has been further enhanced by the installation in the Bede Chapel of a further stained glass windows  

Commissioned by the congregation of Sunderland Minster March 2005 Designed and created by Thomas Denny.       Fabricated and installed by Thomas Denny and Patrick Costeloe August 2006


The Vision of the designer

"The Bede Chapel is an intimate space with three windows enveloping the altar. Stained glass in the windows contributes profoundly to the character and atmosphere of the chapel. Unity of colour is important here and I would hope that the windows can be enjoyed as a unified whole, but also explored individually.

The colour, golden with areas of near whites and passages of more intense cooler colours, is intended to work in the particular situation of the Bede Chapel, where much of the daylight is partially obscured by buildings: golden windows will appear to draw light into the Chapel.

The leadlines are unassertive and supportive of the rhythms expressed in the colour and light. The pieces of glass have many colour changes arrived at by way of acid etching, plating and silver staining.

The theme for the new stained glass in the Bede chapel is prayer, contemplative and active, as expressed in the lives of Bede and Benedict Biscop and their relationship with the City of Sunderland

"Seek the welfare of the city...... and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare will, you find your welfare" (Jeremiah 29 v 7)

The three windows are designed as a whole, with interconnecting strands of storytelling and colour, ideas and possibilities. Each one has its own particularity 

In the South window Bede kneels in prayer at the shore of the sea. Bede describes, in his writings, Cuthbert standing all night in prayer as the sea rises and ebbs about him and Bede is depicted here drawing inspiration from Cuthbert in the same way as we can draw inspiration from Bede; history and its inhabitants are embedded in our own lives.      

The character of this shore is that of Roker and Seaburn, with its mysterious and beautiful honeycombed rocks. Above Bede, an owl moves up towards the moon, conveying a sense of night and its quietude. Bede's landscape, bounded by the rivers of the Wear and Tyne is suggested, map like behind him.

The right hand light contains memories, events, activities of his life - teaching, welcoming, writing, comforting, conversing on a cliff walk.

"Pages "emerge as one looks down the window, themselves full of fragmentary letters and miniature scenes; themselves full of fragmentary letters and miniature scenes: an angel greets a newly made church on a knoll; a rider begins a journey: a figure walks on an island. The border is formed by crosses, varying in shape and embodying the idea of individuals in a Christian community.


        The North window is about Biscop, who walks and gestures like a giant sower, scattering his achievements around him; his movement and activity balancing Bede's stillness and contemplativeness. Biscop occupies an empty, stony place; tower-like structures behind him - a potential city.

The left hand light contains figures who represent aspects of the extraordinary fruitfulness of Benedict Biscop's life. At the top of the window, a man sings in a hilly landscape; two stonemasons work on the making of a church; a glassblower forms a globe of colour; two figures (a young Biscop with an ancient Wilfred) walk towards Rome.

In the left hand border, miniature images from the book of revelations can be found - Biscop brought paintings of this among other themes in his church. 


     The central window has areas of intense violet that seem to emanate from the outer supporting windows and a structure of nebulous columns of colour.

 This window is about the city, with its layers of time, humanity, life, structures, memories, preoccupations.

In the right hand light a group of "pilgrims" stand gazing across the river. Fragments of cityscape occupy the panels of the window above them: pavements and rain framed by shards of Sunderland pottery; walking figures in front of a distant glimpse of cranes and sea; terraces climbing up and down hills; a church and skyline.

In the left hand light men work on a vast girder-like structure; Sunderland bridges can be seen in their various embodiments with figures encountering one another as they walk around.

We then see a birds' eye "map" of the city and the mouth of the Wear.

     There are thus many narratives and details to explore in the windows and also much room for the imagination of the viewer.  It is hoped that the glass will feel full of potential and that it will reward those who return over the weeks and years.

 Each light contains some Sunderland-made glass. Mostly, however, the glass came from English Antique Glass of Birmingham, which means that it was blown by Sunderland men who moved there when Sunderland glassmaking at the Hartley Woods foundry ceased."

Thomas Denny, Belchawell, Dorset.   September 2006