Holy Trinity Church Sunderland

Grade I listed redundant church in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust

The church has fallen into significant disrepair and the Churches Conservation Trust has appointed Mosedale Gillatt Architects to lead a design team to redefine the use of the building, following a successful HLF grant application. This will become ‘The Canny Space’, providing a wider appeal as a new community, commercial performance venue and heritage attraction.

Holy Trinity is listed Grade I  (HE list entry no. 1208056) and therefore of exceptional interest and historical value. Constructed in 1719, possibly to a design by William Etty of York, with a circular apse added to the chancel by the incumbent, Daniel Newcombe, in 1735.  It has survived for 3 centuries, largely in-tact with many of its early features, fixtures and fittings still surviving. In its heyday Holy Trinity had both secular and religious functions, with the current vestry once used as the Town Hall/Magistrates Court, with the town’s first library located in the room directly above. The council’s meeting table and library bookshelves still remain in situ.

Paint analysis has been identified as an important element in the process of bringing back this significant part of Sunderland's past into wider community use and transform it into a centre of stories that will bring to life the unique history of the space and the City. A large number of complete paint samples were removed from key areas inside the building to define a complete chronology of the decorative schemes and colours applied throughout its history. The sampling exercise was supported with some careful uncovering of specialised decorative schemes, particularly in the apse where an early nineteenth century scheme of trompe l'oeil fielded panelling was uncovered. The research showed that the church was originally presented in quite a dark and austere manner with the use of dark stone colours throughout. The secular areas of the building were initially decorated differently from the areas of worship defining a clear distinction between the two. The interior took on a brighter appearance during the late 18th century and into the Regency period with the use of pale stone colours, white and blue enriched with gilding. Later in the 19th century the interior was painted in dark reds and browns, so typical of ecclesiastical interiors during the late Victorian period.