Anglican Church, 1719 possibly to designs of William Etty. The sanctuary was extended in 1735 by the addition of an apse, later alterations were made to the church. Baroque style.
Reasons for Designation
Church of Holy Trinity, 1719, possibly to designs of William Etty, extended 1735, and with later alterations, is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* a comparatively rare example of an early-C18 parish church, which is largely intact and fully retains its original character and coherence;
* it employs a handsome Baroque design that incorporates characteristic decorative elements seen especially to the western front;
* it utilises good quality materials, and is an early high-status regional use of brick, which retains original tuck pointing to the exterior;
* it retains a largely intact plan-form that reflects its former dual role of worship and civic function with original staircases and several small rooms at the west end separated from the large open nave;
* for its striking light and spacious church interior, with its Vanbrugh-like internal clarity, lack of clutter, and ornamental grandeur; the latter reflected in its Corinthian arcades, entablature and handsome ornamented chancel arch;
* the church interior retains a range of quality timber fixtures and fittings including churchwarden's stalls, west screen, gallery front with original coats of arms, chapel screens and altar rail, and a fine gallery staircase;
* spaces relating to its civic functions retain original fittings including oak bookcases with reading and writing desks to the library, and an original oak table to the vestry council chamber;
* individual fittings of artistic note include the marble font with painted and counter-balanced wooden cover by William Etty and a fine marble monument by Dunbar of Carlisle;
* it retains structural timber elements including the two-phase, complex Queen-post roof structure with original trusses, scarfed tie-beams, and raised later purlins.
* it benefits from a spatial group value with a several adjacent listed buildings including its associated forecourt, walls and gate piers, the late-C18 former Donnison School and the mid-C19 Merchant Seamen's Alms Houses.
Holy Trinity was built as the parish church for the newly created parish of Sunderland. It was consecrated on 5 September 1719 by the Rt Revd Dr John Robinson, Bishop of London, Nathaniel Lord Crewe, the Bishop of Durham being too infirm to attend. The sermon was preached by Dr Thomas Mangay, a notable divine of the day. Holy Trinity was one of only a handful of parish churches built in the north-east since the Reformation, and one of only two constructed in brick (the other being the parish church at Stockton-on-Tees). In 1719 the new parish had 6,000 inhabitants, which had doubled by 1801 and trebled by 1851. By the mid-C19 it was largely occupied by families of artisans, sailors and labourers and beset by issues such as overcrowding and poor sanitation. The church also served as the town hall, Magistrate’s Court and what is thought to be Sunderland’s first library. Local parish business was conducted around a large table in the vestry that was also, unusually, accessible from a secondary external door.
Designed in 1717, the architect of the church is unclear. The first Rector Daniel Newcome may have had a hand in its design, and William Etty of York (1675-1734) played a major part too, certainly in fitting out the interior. He was a master carpenter who became a skilled wood carver and a fine architect. He worked with distinguished architects such as Sir John Vanbrugh, serving as clerk of works at the country houses Seaton Delaval, Northumberland and Castle Howard, North Yorkshire. Stylistically, the interior of Holy Trinity, Sunderland resembles that of Etty’s own 1720s design for Holy Trinity, Leeds, and suggests Sunderland might well be Etty’s design too.
An apse was added to the original square-headed sanctuary in 1735 necessitating a reordering of the east end. In 1803 the church roof was raised and reconstructed by Thomas Wilson to accommodate a west gallery; the windows were also re-glazed. The original peal of six bells was recast in 1829 as a peal of eight bells by Thomas Mears of London. A memorial to Robert Gray, rector (1819-1838), by David Dunbar of Carlisle (1792-1866) was added in the 1838. In 1842 north and south galleries were inserted, but removed in the C20, along with the box pews. The stained glass of the east window was made by James Hartley’s glassworks in Sunderland and installed in 1857 by William Wailes of Newcastle upon Tyne. Also, in the C19 the sanctuary area was extended westwards. Repairs after Second World War bomb damage included the addition of a flat ceiling (replaced again in 2020), and re-glazing of the windows. The church became redundant in the later C20, and in 1988 it was received by the Redundant Churches Fund, now the Churches Conservation Trust. Between 2019 and 2021 a major phase of refurbishment to the church exterior and interior including some of its fittings, was carried out.
Anglican Church, 1719 possibly to designs of William Etty. The sanctuary was extended in 1735 by the addition of an apse; later alterations were made to the church. Baroque style.
MATERIALS: red brick laid in Flemish bond, with some original tuck pointing; ashlar dressings, and the roof is dark grey slate.
PLAN: a simple rectangular plan with a six-bay nave with clasping aisles and a west tower, lobbies and a vestry forming a seventh bay at the west end. There is a shallow east chancel with an apse.
EXTERIOR: all openings have keyed stone surrounds, the principal ones with triple keys, and most are round-arched, and all have impost mouldings. The three-bay west elevation comprises a central tower with a pent-roofed aisle to either side. Original tuck pointing is clearly visible, and stonework to the west door and corners is rusticated. A cornice breaks forward across the aisles on giant angle and tower Tuscan pilasters. The four-stage tower has a central entrance formed by a high rusticated arch with a triple keystone over original double six-panelled oak doors, with a semi-circular over light of radiating glazing bars. Small round-headed niches flank a tall window above, with small-paned sashes containing the only pre-war glass, which has a triple key breaking the entablature above. The upper stages have quoins and cornices, and a clock face is set in tall blind arches on the third stage of the west, south and north sides. The top stage has louvred belfry openings, and corner spirelets on square plinths which are flanked by cyma-moulded brackets. The side bays under pent roofs have keyed arches to original oak panelled doors below windows in keyed elliptical arches, the key rising through the cornice to shallow pilasters, and further angle pilasters above the cornice rising to pent gable coping. A pair of sundials are affixed to the upper south-west corner. The seven-bay north and south elevations have a moulded plinth and pilasters at the angles defining the west bay. The early-C18 keystone centres of each window rise through a cornice to the pilasters of the corniced parapet. The most westerly windows on each elevation light the vestry and library above. A pair of former gravestones (illegible) are set beneath a window on the south elevation. The east elevation has blind roundels over arched windows flanking a shallow, gabled sanctuary projection with a low-pitched roof, prominent stone angle pilasters and a circular former eight-foil window (now blocked). The semi-circular apse has a pyramidal roof and a large Venetian window.
INTERIOR: the ground floor is stone flagged throughout, except for some terrazzo flooring to the dais and the timber floor of the vestry. The north-west side entrance opens into a porch with inserted early-C21 oak-panelled WC pods, and an original large timber staircase with tread ends projecting over the open string, turned balusters and a ramped and wreathed handrail, that rises to the first-floor gallery landing. A full-width vestibule is entered through an original panelled door with a wicket gate; this has half-panelled walls, and a panelled and glazed screen with round-arched entrances (1724) separating it from the body of the church; the central entrance has painted text on the lintel and inner lintel. A pair of collection boxes (1721) are fixed to the bases of the pillars on the west side. A centrally-placed font by Etty and Mansfield of York, has a fluted marble bowl on a turned limestone pedestal and sandstone base; the counter-balanced and ornately carved wooden cover with scroll brackets supporting cherubs and a dove finial, is raised by a pully into a domed ceiling recess, painted with cherubs and an inscription. At the south end of the vestibule there is a second stair to the gallery with a closed string, turned balusters and ramped handrail.
From the vestibule double panelled doors within an internal round-arched recess with imposts, lead into the main porch which contains a memorial to the rector Robert Gray (1819-1838). It is a life-size standing figure in a long gown, cravat and bands, with a sheaf of papers in one hand, standing upon a high pedestal carved with a lengthy eulogy. Low flanking Greek aedicules contain low-relief figures of Faith and Charity, portrayed as young women with children to either side. The vestry room is also entered from the vestibule through six-panel doors in a moulded architrave, pedimented to the interior. This has panelled walls, a corner fireplace with hob grate, and a parish safe (1854). A large fixed oak table is said to be original and dates from the time the vestry was used for local government meetings. The room also has an external door set in a round-arched architrave.
The Classical aisled nave has giant Corinthian colonnades on corniced plinths with undersized capitals supporting a modillioned entablature and a flat plaster roof. The colonnade plinths are enclosed in C20 and early C21 panels. Along the north wall is an inserted early-C21 servery counter with an oak-panelled front. The outer bays of the Venetian chancel arch break forward and are enriched with two pairs of fluted Corinthian columns with carved plinths and gilded bases and capitals, with elaborate decoration above a modillioned cornice with three broken pediments and cherubs, the inner segmental and framing an open bible and the outer framing bishops' mitres. The chancel is distinguished from the nave by a dais with two steps to a central semi-circular projection, and three Frosterley marble steps lead to the apse, which has a panelled door in the left return. The original communion rail with semi-circular gate, is in the same style as the stair balustrades. A south chapel has panelled south and east walls and panelled round-arched arcaded partitions to the other sides thought to have been fashioned from the box pews; a wooden First World War memorial recording the names of 192 Fallen is fixed to the south wall. The west gallery is carried on pilasters, with scroll brackets set against the columns; it has an ornate panelled front adorned with slender columns carrying the original, moulded and painted George I Royal Arms in the centre, flanked by the Arms of the Bishop of Durham and London. A breakout space has been created on the gallery as part of the C21 renovations by removing some of the pews and levelling off the rake; this has an oak floor and glass screens to three sides. The west screen of 1724 has slender columns supporting round arches over churchwardens' and other dignitaries' pews, with the names of their offices painted above.
The first-floor library is entered through a six-panel door and retains an ornate hob grate with simple surround. The north wall retains its original, full-length and full-height oak bookcase with reading and writing desks. Ladders. The main staircase extends up to the original choir vestry, from which wooden steps and lead up to the bell ringers’ chamber, clock chamber and belfry. The complex Queen-post roof structure accessed via a hatch from the tower, has original trusses, with scarfed tie-beams, and raised later purlins.