St Andrew’s Church, Roker – the Arts and Crafts Cathedral

One church well worth visiting in Sunderland (other than St Peter’s) is St Andrew’s, Roker. Consecrated in 1907, this church is a showcase of Arts and Crafts decoration, furnishing and design. Built in rock quarried locally in Marsden and with its foundation stone inscription carved by Eric Gill, the church is a wonderful example of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Sir John Betjeman described the church as ‘a bold and imaginative experiment which has triumphantly succeeded' and it certainly instils respect for the spirit of reform which the Movement engendered. St Andrew’s is considered to be architect Edward Prior’s masterpiece and the employment of figures such as Edward Burne-Jones, Ernest Gimson, William Morris and Eric Gill can only have added to its success.

There are so many things that catch the eye in St Andrew’s it is impossible to single out a favourite.

For any fan of the Pre-Raphaelites, the reredos alone is worth the visit although don’t miss the small Burne-Jones window in the Lady Chapel.

The painting by MacDonald Gill on the ceiling of the chancel/sanctuary is awe inspiring, such a pity that the north-east weather is finally finding its way into this area of the church.

I walked on the original carpet in the chancel, designed by William Morris and a testament to natural vegetable dyes which have more than stood the test of time. One hundred and ten years old and the only thing which failed the full colour and beauty of the carpet was my photography. This is the same carpet that my father will have admired when he was best man at his friend, Benjamin Lock’s wedding, in 1945.

Admiring the font we came across a lovely surprise, the font cover, which was a gift to the church in the 1950’s, is a Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson piece of furniture with the little mouse there for all to admire.

Finally the memorials to those parishioners who died in two World Wars are proudly displayed on the west wall of the church. The boards, by their size alone, make sure that we will not forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Included on the board is an ancestor of mine, John Watson Storey. I can’t think of a better church for him to be remembered in.

To arrange a visit to the church telephone 0191 516 0135 between 9am and 1pm or email or try popping in to the parish office (between 9 and 1) which adjoins St Andrew’s on the left side of the church. It is a very friendly church which you can wander round to your hearts content.

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