Tuesday, May 09, 2017
My Local History Month in Sunderland
Off we went - and yes, I sat on the top deck at the front. The bus tour was to Sunderland's Places of Worship. As someone who only ever goes to church for hatches, matches and dispatches, having a neb inside some of Sunderland's churches and finding out more about them was intriguing indeed.
Our first stop was St. George's United Reform Church on Stockton Road. It was big, as churches usually are. It had an organ, as many do. There were pews, stained glass. So far, so usual, so churchy. But then we were told about its Sunderland roots. The shipyard owners who bought the land and built the church. The stained glass windows dedicated to those owners with names like Steels and Bartrams.
Margaret Drybrugh, who died as a POW in Singapore after her missionary work in China.
Back on the bus and off to stop number two in the leafy, affluent Ashbrooke part of town. St. John's church was built as "The cathedral to Methodism". At the end of each pew there was a numbered brass plaque.
These were to hold the prices which the gentry had to pay to sit in that pew. The closer to the front, to God, you wanted to be, the more it was going to cost you. The further back you sat, the less you paid. And if you were servants to the gentry, you could sit down for free. Heavens above. But you had to leave early, in order to saddle up the horses and get the carriages ready for your masters at the end of the service.
The stained glass windows were dedicated to the men (they're always men, aren't they?) who founded the church.
Back on the bus and off to venue number three - the Sunderland Sikh temple. This was a real eye-opener for me as I'd never been inside anywhere like this before. We were asked to remove our shoes when we went in, and to wash our hands and cover our heads. Then we entered the prayer room. No barriers, no pew prices, no stained glass windows, no pomp or circumstance, no powerful men. Just three very friendly and welcoming women - one of whom I knew and hadn't seen for years, so it was a lovely reunion .
And then, it was back to the bus for the end of our trip.
Two years ago during Local History Month I took a guided walk around Sunderland's East End.
You can download the brochure for Local History Month here.
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