From Church to Canny Space

Holy Trinity Church is one of the few remaining historic buildings in the east end of Sunderland.

Built in 1719 at the heart of a bustling port community, it has served as a town hall, magistrates’ court, library and fire station, as well as a church, over the years.

However, by the mid-19th century, the centre of the town shifted to the west and by the 20th century, town planning had effectively cut the church off from the city centre.

The Grade I-listed building has been managed by the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) since 1988 and more than £500,000 has since been spent on its conservation.

However, it remains on Historic England’s ‘Buildings at Risk’ register.

Fortunately, there are moves afoot to bring it back into use as a new arts, heritage and cultural venue in time for its 300th anniversary.

The Canny Space is an ambitious conservation and regeneration project that has won the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund and other high-profile partners.

“Holy Trinity is at severe risk and investment is needed now to ensure the historic fabric is not yet lost,” explains the glossy consultation document.

“The project has been shaped through consultation with the local community who want to see Holy Trinity open regularly, and it has also come at a time of change for the arts, heritage, museums and libraries offer in Sunderland.

“There is ambitious cultural investment across the city, including the Cultural Spring initiative, the Tall Ships Race in 2018, major investment in the MAC Trust Cultural Quarter, a bid to become UK City of Culture 2021.

“We want The Canny Space to capitalise on and be part of these opportunities.”

The Cultural Spring supported a Georgian-themed consultation day at the church and I was invited to run a calligraphy workshop as part of the family-friendly activities.

Despite being born and brought up in Sunderland, I previously knew nothing about the church other than where it was, but I’m glad I got to find out.

I couldn’t resist having a poke around the building and I loved the library in particular – the building deserves to be saved for that piece of history alone!

There is also some stunning calligraphy dotted around the building. I’m told this will stay!

For more information about The Canny Space and future events and activities, visit the website here.

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