Sunderland Minster formerly Bishopwearmouth Parish Church

The ancient parish of Bishopwearmouth is considered to have been founded between AD 930 and 941. Until the 19th Century it was a large parish consisting of an area of approximately 20 square miles.

Among the former Rectors of Bishopwearmouth are included a Pope; the founder of University College, Oxford; a number of Cardinals, Archbishops and bishops; two Masters of the Rolls; two Chancellors of England; a famous theologian and many friends and relatives of the Royal Family and of the Bishops of Durham.

Prior to the mid 19th Century, Rectors did little in the way of day-to-day ministry within the parish. They tended to employ curates or clerks to carry out such tasks while they, the Rectors, pursued other interests. The Rector would probably visit his parish from time to time, mainly to collect the Tithes of the Rectorship. From the beginning of the 17th Century more of the Rectors of Bishopwearmouth actually stayed in the parish but they stfll continued to pursue other interests. There were, of course, certain exceptions. For example, Francis Burgoyne (1585-1632) and Robert Grey (1661-1704) not only stayed in the parish but also took an active interest in the ministry and day-to-day events.

By the 1860s, the Rectors of Bishopwearmouth established themselves as an integral part of the community, a position which they have retained right up to the present day.

NOTE: The following names are on the tablet in the church, listing the former Rectors:

1288 William De Insula
1378 Thomas De Lynton
1382 William De Trafford
1383 Peter De Galoun
1390 William Hull
1396 John Macclesfield
1400 Robert Blondell

No evidence has been found to corroborate the tablet details and they have been omitted from the list.


According to the tablet listing the Rectors of Bishopwearmouth from AD 1214, the first known incumbent was Phillip De Poictiers. However, research has shown that this particular individual was dead at least six years before this date.
It is known that Phillip, as a great friend of Richard I, held many benefices in County Durham soon after entering the priesthood and it is therefore possible that he was Rector of Bishopwearmouth some time during the period 119~97.

Phillip was consecrated as Bishop of Durham on the 12th May 1197 but was not popular among the monks and Priors. The reason for this was simply because the clergy supported their right to elect the Bishop and Phillip had been appointed by the King.
By the time King John came to the throne of England, the rift between the King and Rome was such as to cause a break in the relations between the two powers and Phillip supported the King. For this, the Bishop was excommunicated and was described as one of John’s evil Councillors by Pope Innocent III.

Still under excommunication, Phillip died in 1208 and was buried in unconsecrated ground.


Born in Somerset, Adam was educated in Paris and Oxford. His period at Bishopwearmouth was only for three years, from whence he entered the Franciscan Order and became a teacher at Oxford.

There is little doubt that he was a man of great influence as his two greatest friends were Robert Grosseteste (Bishop of Lincoln and Chancellor of Oxford) and Simon De Montfort (Earl of Leicester).
As a man of sound judgement and high intellect, Adam often found himself being consulted by many of the important personages of the period such as Boniface, Archbishop of Canterbury; the Earl of Cornwall; and the King and Queen.

In 1256 an attempt was made to have Adam elected Bishop of Ely but the post was given instead to Hugh de Balsham, the founder of Peterhouse College, Cambridge. Adam died in 1258.

Adam’s brother, Richard. was Bishop of Durham from 1217 until his death in 1224. Richard left the See of Durham in debt to the tune of £12,000 – mainly due to a lengthy litigation between himself and the Convent of Durham.


William was a native of Durham who studied and taught in Paris before a conflict between the students and townsfolk of that city forced several English scholars to migrate to Oxford in 1229. Among the church offices held by William were that of the Rector of Bishopwearmouth, Archdeacon of Durham and Chancellor of Lincoln.

In 1224 he founded University College, Oxford and in his will he left some 310 marks the interest on which was to be spent maintaining ten or more masters for the College.

Henry III, King of England, held great dominions in France and many of the English clergy were given appointments there. So it was that William was appointed Archbishop of Rouen, where he died in 1249.


Son of Hugh Le Brun, who married Isabella, the widow of King John, Adelmare was a half-brother of Henry III. His mother, Queen Isabella, encouraged her relatives to gain high positions throughout England and this brought about great anger and resentment in the country.

In 1249, Nicholas Farnham resigned the Bishopric of Durham and Henry III attempted to force Adelmare on the Prior and Convent but the clergy of Durham resisted Henry, electing Walter De Kirkham, Dean of York.

Adelmare received many benefices as a result of his relationship to Henry, one of which was the Rectorship of Bishopwearmouth. Indeed, it is stated that so numerous and rewarding were the Church positions held by Adelmare his income exceeded that of the Archbishop of Canterbury!

When the Bishopric of Winchester fell vacant in 1250 Adelmare was chosen by King Henry III. The monks objected but, after being threatened by Henry, they acquiesced and Adelmare was elected to the position on 4th November 1250.

Accounts of Adelmare’s rapacity and violence are well documented (see Hunt’s Dictionary of National Biography Vol. 2, p286). It is said that he invited the Earl of Gloucester to a house in Southwark and there poisoned the Earl.

Such was the behaviour of this man that, by a decree of the Parliament at Oxford in 1258, Adelmare was ordered to leave the country. He went over to France where he wandered around the country until his death in Paris in 1261.

His heart was brought to be interred in Winchester Cathedral. Many miracles have since been accredited to Adelmare by people who prayed at his memorial in Winchester.


Yet another half brother of Henry III, Aymer was said to be a very ignorant and vicious man who was able to gain positions in the Church through his relatives.

He came to Bishopwearmouth after his brother Adelmare received the Bishopric of Winchester in 1250. Aymer did not hold the post for very long, becoming Bishop-Elect of Lincoln in the same year. He was never consecrated at Lincoln, owing to various disputes concerning his appointment, but received the income from the See of Lincoln right up to his death in 1260.


Nothing is known of Richard except that he was a relative of Walter, Bishop of Durham from 1249 to 1260.


It is not known when John received the Rectorship of Bishopwearmoutb, but according to Bishop Kellawe’s Registers (Durham), in 1312 John requested to be absent from his Rectory in order to deal with personal affairs. His prolonged absences resulted in the Bishop’s Chaplain ordering that the tithes of the living be sequestrated to the See of Durham. John died in 1316 and the probate to his will was dated 1st August 1316.


From an ancient family of Osgodby, Lines, William started his career as a clerk of the Exchequer. In 1306 and 1307 he sat in the Parliament of Carlisle as proxy for St. Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury. His service to the Royal Family led to him being presented to the living of Whitburn by the king on 13th June 1313. In the same year he became a Notary Public and was one of the Bishop of Durham’s representatives at the King’s Parliament in Westminster.

His obvious administrative abilities led to him being created the Recorder of the proceedings of the Parliament at Lincoln in 1316 and he later held the offices of Master of the Rolls, Chancellor of All England and Keeper of the Great Seal. William was undoubtedly a ‘career’ man and he was always seeking higher positions both in the Church and in politics. Among the many positions he held in the Church were Rector of Bishopwearmouth, Canon of St. Paul’s, Canon of Lincoln, Canon of York, Canon of Salisbury and Canon of Dublin. Indeed, there was a period when he held no fewer than 12 Prebends in various Cathedrals and Collegiate Churches.

During the 1320’s William visited France and was involved in a dispute between King Edward II and the king of France, concerning some land in Aquitaine. The part he played apparently led to a rift between him and the king and matters were made worse by the fact that while he was in France, William managed to obtain the vacancy of the Bishopric of Norwich, through the influence of friends in Rome. Edward had intended the post for his Chancellor, Robert de Baldock and was furious to learn of the appointment. They were eventually reconciled when William returned to England in 1326. When Edward II abdicated and was succeeded by Edward III, William gave his support to the new king and in 1332 was rewarded with the post of Lord Treasurer. He died in London on 27th March 1336 and was buried in Norwich Cathedral.


John was a member of a very distinguished Italian family which was prominent within the Church hierarchy from the 12th to the 15th Centuries. Among the most famous of his relatives were two uncles, John Gaetano (Pope Nicholas III, 1276-77) and Neapoleo, Cardinal of St. Adrian’s.

Neapoleo took great care to nurture his nephew’s career in the right path and requested Pope John XXII to give a Canonry at York to John Gaetano as well as the reservation of a prebend at the same church. This request was granted and John was later made Archdeacon of Coventry, Rector of Bishopwearmouth, Papal Legate and Cardinal of St. Theodore’s. John died in 1335 and was succeeded in his Canonry and prebend at York by William la Zouch.


As the Chancellor to Queen Phillippa, (wife of Edward III), John received the Rectorship of Bishopwearmouth for services rendered to the Royal family. John had to resign the living of Ouston and his Canonry of Salisbury to take up the post at Bishopwearmouth. This was unusual as the normal practice was to hold several benefices at the same time. However, as Bishopwearmouth was one of the richest livings in the Kingdom at the time, it is possible that his smaller incomes from Ouston and Salisbury were required by his ‘sponsors’ to reward minor officials at Court.


Through his friendship with Henry, Lord Percy, William de Newport was presented to the living of Arncliffe in 1349 whilst still only an Acolyte. By 1360 he was presented to the Rectory of Bishopwearmouth and held the position until his death in May 1366.

Little is known of William save that in his will he requested that he be buried in Bishopwearmouth Church and that he left a silver chalice to the Carmelite Brothers of Allerton, various bequests to Bishopwearmouth and a bequest to the Percy family.


David was yet another Rector of Bishopwearmouth whose connections at Court stood him in good stead. He was a great friend of Edward III and through this friendship gained many benefices including Bradley, Lincs; Knaresdale, Northumberland; Foston, Lincs; Marham, Northants; Bledelow, Bucks; Skelton, Cumberland; Elsying Molars, London; Hornsea; Elvele, Yorks; Leverington, Cambs; Brington, Hants; Somersham, Hants; St. Thomas’s, Bedford Bridge and Wisburgh.

He was also a Canon at York and Ripon, as well as being Prebendary at St. Paul’s, Chichester, Lincoln, Durham and York.

Among his political appointments were that of Keeper of the Great Seal and Master of the Rolls. He founded a chantry at the altar of St. Andrew at Ripon Cathedral.

On his death, David de Woolour left to the Chapter of York a black cope and silver gilt dishes in his memory.


Simon started his ecclesiastical career as a monk at St. Peter’s, Westminster and represented them at the Triennial Chapter of the Benedictines, held at Northampton in 1346. By April 1349 he had be come Prior of Westminster and later that year succeeded to the position of abbot.

Having considerable wealth, Simon paid off all the debts incurred by previous abbots. He was also instrumental in the completion of the cloisters at the Abbey. He was highly thought of at Court and it was no surprise when the king appointed him Treasurer of England in November 1860.

In 1861 Simon found himself in a very strange position as he had been elected to both of the Bishoprics of Ely and London. Although London was a more prestigious post, he accepted Ely because they had elected him first.  In 1868 he was given the position of Chancellor of England by the king and as such he opened Parliament in 1868, 1365 and 1367. In his position as Chancellor, he was instrumental in the introduction of legislation to curb the powers of the Pope over the king’s subjects.

In July 1866 Simon Langham was chosen as Archbishop of Canterbury and was enthroned on 25th March 1367.

By creating Simon a Cardinal by the title of St. Sixtus, Pope Urban V managed to cause a rift between Edward III and Langham in 1368. Edward declared the See of Canterbury void and took the revenues into the coffers of the king. Simon resigned his Archbishopric in November 1268 and left the country for Avignon the following year, where he was styled the Cardinal of Canterbury. However this rift was soon healed and Simon was to hold various posts in England including Treasurer of Wells; Rector of Bishopwearmouth; Archdeacon of Wells; Archdeacon of Taunton; Prebend holder of Wistow at York and of Brampton at Lincoln and Archdeacon of West Riding.

In 1374 he was again chosen as Archbishop of Canterbury by the Chapter but, with the Court seeking the post for Simon Sudbury and the Pope wishing Langham to stay at Avignon, the Pope refused to confirm the election and Simon agreed to waive his rights to the See.

Simon Langham died on 22nd July 1376 and was buried in the Church of the Carthusians at Avignon but the body was transferred some three years later to St. Benets Chapel, Westminster Abbey. It is said of his tomb that it is one of the oldest and most remarkable ecclesiastical monuments in the Abbey.


All that is known of this man is that a certain Robert de Rouclif left Thomas the sum of 13 shillings and 4 pence for religious services.


Robert is regarded by some as the most illustrious of the past Rectors of Bishopwearmouth. His chief claim to fame was his election to the Papacy in 1378. He held the post of Cardinal priest of the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Rome and it is highly unlikely that he ever saw Bishopwearmouth. What is likely is that Robert acquired the Rectorship (a highly prized living at the time), in order that he could use the income for election expenses for the Papacy. He became one of the two ‘Popes’ at the start of the period known in Christian history as the Great Western Schism. (He called himself Clement VII and sat at Avignon whilst the other ‘Pope’ was called Urban VI and sat in Rome).


A native of Warwickshire, William was for some time the clerk and treasurer to the household of Edward, Prince of Wales (The Black Prince). Through his connections at Court, William was able to secure many henefices in the church and certain prominent positions in politics.

In 1349 Edward III presented him to the Rectory of East Wretham, Norfolk. It was to be some 28 years before he received the lavish rewards for having served the Royal household. In 1377 he was given the wardenship of the Hospital of St. Leonard, Derby. This was quickly followed by many other appointments such as the Rectorships of Ininghoe, Bucks and Bishopwearmouth, Durham; Prebendal stalls at Lincoln, Tamworth, St. Paul’s and York; Canon of Windsor; Dean of Lichfield and Dean of the Royal Free Chapel, Stafford.

In 1379 he held the post of Keeper of the King’s Wardrobe and two years later was Chancellor of the Exchequer. William died in July 1390.


Roger was a popular cleric in the parishes and cathedrals of England, being Rector of Wimbush, Essex; Wallop, Hants; Patrington, Yorks; Bishopwearmouth, Durham. He was also holder of Prebendal stalls at St. Paul’s Tolleshunt in St. Martins-le-Grand; Fountmell in Shaftsbury, Chisenbury in Sarum and Erchisjone in St. Mary, Winchester. Roger died in March 1395.


All that is known of John is that he was made Rector of Bishopwearmouth on 18th March 1399 and later became a Canon at York.


Richard was related to the above-mentioned Roger and became a Canon of York after a spell as Rector of Bishopwearmouth.

As Warden of King’s College, Cambridge, Richard had connections at Court and was from time to time called upon to assist in matters of State. In 1409, along with Sir Richard Redman and Lord Fitzhugh of Ravensworth, he acted as Commissioner to the King in an attempt to seek peace with Scotland. The Commissioners were successful in obtaining the release of Archibald, Earl of Douglas. As a Licenciate in Law, Richard de Holme was called again to settle problems between Scotland and England. In 1415 he was called upon to assist in effecting an exchange between Murdoch, son of the Duke of Albany (prisoner of England) and Henry de Percy, grandson of the Earl of Northumberland (prisoner of Scotland). This mission was also a success.

Richard died in April 1424 and in his will he requested to be buried …’in my Parish Church of Wearmouth’


Rector of Bishopwearmouth; Treasurer to Bishop Hatfield’s household; Master of Greatham Hospital; Canon of Westminster; Rector of Sedgefield and Houghton-le-Spring.


A man of many preferments, John held the posts of Master of St. Edmund’s Hospital, Gatesbead; Rector of Haughton-le-Skerne; Rector of Ash, Essex; Rector of St, Benet’s, London; Rector of Houghton-le-Spring; Rector of Bishopwearmouth and Master of Sherburn Hospital.

John Newton was popular with the influential people of his time and often flouted the conventions and laws connected with his various posts. For example, quite contrary to the Statute, John retained his Rectorships of St. Benet’s; Bishopwearmouth and Houghton-le-Spring after succeeding to the Mastership of Sherburn. He was said to be a favourite of Bishop Langley of Durham who had a tendency to ignore the faults of the favoured. During Newton’s period at Sherburn, the wealth of the Hospital was quickly run down because of his grants and favours to his friends, He died in 1427.


A founder of the Chantry of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist in St. Oswald’s Church, Durham in 1402, Richard also became the Dean of St. Mary’s Newark. His friendship with John Newton and Bishop Langley may well have been instrumental in his appointment as Rector of Bishopwearmouth.


Thomas was Rector of Whitburn; Haughton-le-Skerne; and Dean of St. Andrew’s, Auckland and, before he became Rector of Bishopwearmonth, Vicar-General to Bishop Langley of Durham.


Believed to have been a relative of George Radcliffe, the Rector of Haughton-le-Skerne (1415 and 1450). George of Bishopwearmouth died in 1494.


Born in Somerset in 1447, he received his education at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Oxford and Bologna, finishing with an LL.D.

Among the many benefices he received were the Rectorships of Ashbury, Berks; Cheddon, High Ham and Chedzoy in Somerset and later Bishopwearmouth. He was also Archdeacon of Exeter; Archdeacon of Wells; Vicar-General to the Bishop of Bath and Wells (R. Fox); Vicar General to the same man when the latter became Bishop of Durham; Canon of Windsor and Dean of the Chapel Royal.

The highest positions Richard achieved were that of Keeper of the Great Seal (1479 and various periods afterwards until 1497); Registrar of the Order of the Garter (1498) and ultimately Bishop of Norwich in 1500. His Bishopric appeared to breathe new life into him arid he set about with excessive zeal to rid the See of anything that could remotely be considered as heretic. His attempt to interfere with the civic duties and privileges of the Mayor of Thetford led to the Bishop being fined the very large sum of 10,000 marks and to a term of imprisonment. He was soon released through a pardon from Parliament and the fine was returned to him. He is said to have used part of the returned fine to purchase the stained-glass windows for King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. Bishop Nykke was regarded by some as a vicious man and legend has it that the term, ‘Old Nick’ (devil), originated from this man. He did, however, carry out good tasks, among which were the rebuilding of the North and South transepts of his Cathedral and the founding of three fellowships in Trinity Hail, Cambridge.


Rector of Redmarshall between 1544 and 1546 before he came to Bishopwearmouth as Rector on 1st July 1546. He resigned the living of Bishopwearmouth in 1548 and became Archdeacon of Northumberland on 3rd November of the same year.

His refusal to comply with the Anglican ritual and his rejection of the supremacy of the king in religious matters (this was during the period of the Reformation), led to William being denied his position as Archdeacon in 1560. He was sentenced to remain within ten miles of his home at Thirsk. He finally left England and died in Brabant, Belgium in 1578.


Born in Northumberland, Thomas became a Fellow of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge and was one of the Proctors of the University in 1501. Although he was Vicar of Aldbury, Herts and Rector of Bishopwearmouth, his chief interest lay in the academic world. He involved himself in various activities within Cambridge University, giving money and books to Pembroke Hall and also founding a scholarship in Christ College, the patronage of which he reserved for himself for life and vested the same, after his death, to the Dean and Chapter of Durham. His Rectorship of Bishopwearmouth lasted 12 years, from 1548 to 1560.


As a friend of Queen Elizabeth, Adam was fortunate to he presented by her to a Prebendal Stall at Durham in 1560 through the Commission from the Chapter of York, who were in control after the removal by deprivation of Archbishop Heath. Later in the same year Adam was given the Rectorship of Bishopwearmouth by the Queen for his services as Clerk. In 1561 he was appointed by the Chapter of Durham to collect the Queen’s Tithes.

There is little doubt that the Chapter of Durham was hostile to the Queen, but they would have been fearful of doing anything that would upset the Commission of the Chapter of York (created by the Crown), in case Durham was similarly taken over by lay supporters of Her Majesty. The Durham Chapter tended to accept the directives given though during the reign of Elizabeth I, the problems between Catholic and Protestant were a constant source of strife throughout England.


Born in Bristol in 1546, Tobias was to set out upon the path of greatness in the academic and ecclesiastical world. He started his education at Wells and went on to Oxford where he matriculated as a probationer of University College in 1559. He then went to Christ Church College where he took his BA and MA. In November 1559 he was unanimously elected Public Orator of the University and held the post for three years. His Academic career continued with his election as President of St. John’s College; a Doctorate of Divinity in 1574 and he was successfully nominated as Vice President of the University by Lord Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester and great friend of the Queen. Tobias went on to become Chancellor of the University in 1581.

His ecclesiastical career started with his ordination in 1566. He was Rector of Algarkirk, Lincoln; Canon of Christ Church College; Archdeacon of Bath; Chaplain-in-Ordinary to the Queen; Prebendary at Salisbury; Dean of Christ Church; Canon of Wells; Chanter and Precentor of Salisbury and Dean of Durham. All this he achieved in the space of 11 years!

In 1590 he was inducted as Rector of Bishopwearmouth and on 22nd April 1595 he became Bishop of Durham. In the following year Tobias was chosen as one of the Commissioners to settle one of the many disputes between the Scots and English on the Borders.

When James VI of Scotland came down to take up the throne of England (James I), Tobias Matthew met James at Berwick and gave the King the land of Norhamshire and Islandshire (at the time belonging to the See of Durham) as a token of the Bishop’s allegiance. In return, the King restored the property of Durham House, the Strand, London, to the See.

In 1606 Tobias was translated to the Archbishopric of York on the death of Matthew Hutton.

Some time later he was given the custody of Lady Arabella Stuart, the King’s cousin and archrival for the English crown. Tobias showed little success as a jailer because the lady escaped from his house in June, 1611, to cause more sleepless nights for the King.
Tobias was married to Frances, daughter of Bishop Barlow of Chichester and the widow of Archbishop Matthew Parker. The most famous of their children was Sir Tobie, a brilliant diplomat and writer.

Archbishop Matthew died at Cawood on 29th March 1628, at the age of 82 and he was buried in the Lady Chapel in York Minster.


On the promotion of Tobias Matthew to the Bishopric of Durham, Francis Burgoyne was collated to the Rectory of Bishopwearmouth in April 1595. He had come from Spofforth, Yorkshire, where he had been Rector for a short period. Francis stayed at Bishopwearmouth for a period of 38 years.

During that time he became a Prebendary of the 8th Stall at Durham and Archdeacon of Northumberland, all posts which he held until his death in 1633.

It is known that, during his incumbency at Bishopwearmouth, Francis Burgoyne was involved in some alterations to the church which included the installation of Jacobean carved panelling in the Chancel and some pews and a new pulpit. Most of this was lost in the 1806-1810 alterations but in 1925 the old Jacobean pulpit was found in Trimdon Street. Although it was unable to be restored, the panels were saved and used for the frontispiece of the altar which is in the Lady Chapel to the South of the Chancel.

Francis’s son, George, became one of the first Aldermen of Sunderland.


Bishop Morton of Durham appointed John Johnson to the Rectorship of Bishopwearmouth on 25th February 1633 and he held the position for a period of 11 years until his death in 1648.


Having been Vicar of St. OswaLds, Durham from December 1631, Christian Sherwood was presented to the Rectory of Bishopwearmouth on the 20th January 1643. As the Sunderland area was primarily in support of the Parliamentarians during the Civil War, Christian Sherwood, a Royalist supporter, was removed in 1646 by the Commonwealth and was replaced by a Puritan.

1646 – WILLIAM JOHNSON, A.M. (An Intruder)

During the installation of William Johnson, a Puritan, the church and rectory of Bishopwearmouth was badly damaged by the Roundhead local units. Johnson spent some of his money to make the Rectory a little more habitable.

1651 – SAMUEL HAMMOND, D.D. (Intruder)

Born at York, Samuel became an eminent man in academic circles. He was a butcher’s son but managed to go to King’s College, Cambridge, where he eventually obtained his Doctorate. Due to the brilliance of his mind, he attracted the attention of various personalities of the period. Dr. Samuel Collins, the Professor of Divinity at King’s College, appointed Samuel as his Servitor and the Earl of Manchester obtained a fellowship at Magdalene College for him. Sir Arthur Haselrigge and the Governor of Newcastle, appointed Samuel as his Chaplain.

When William Johnson left Bishopwearmouth in 1651, Samuel took up the post of Minister and on 19th Angust 1651. He held a court at Bishopwearmouth in accordance with the rules of the Commonwealth which classified the ministers of such parishes as Lords of the Manor, with all the rights that this position entailed.

According to an Order of the Common Council dated 5th November 1652, Dr. Hammond was appointed to preach at St. Nicholas, Newcastle. By this time he had left Bishopwearmouth and at the Restoration of the Monarchy he was ejected from St. Nicholas, Newcastle.

He then went abroad, living for a time at Hamburg, Stockholm and Danzig. He later returned to England, living at Hackney, London where he died on l0th December 1665.

1653 – WILLIAM GRAVES (Intruder)

It is said that William Graves was not the third Intruder but the fourth and that the third Intruder had taken over Bishopwearmouth in 1653 and William had to use violence to remove this unknown person. There is, however, no documentary evidence for this and we have to assume that the story is merely a legend.

What we do know is that William was a Puritan and that he styled himself Parson of the Parish. He was married in Bishopwearmouth to Hannah, daughter of Mr. Gabrill Sanger, minister of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, on 6th December 1657. William held courts on 6th December 1654 and 26th April 1660. He was ejected from the Rectory in 1661 after the Restoration of the Monarchy.

1652 – ROBERT GREY, S.T.P.

The son of Sir Ralph Grey of Horton and half-brother of William, Lord Grey of Wark, Robert was educated at Northallerton, Newcastle and at Christ’s College, Cambridge.

He was a curate at Bishopwearmouth for three years under John Johnson and on 16th March 1652 he was granted the Rectorship by Bishop Morton of Durham.

However, Robert was unable to take up his post because of the Puritan Intruders during the period of Cromwell’s Commonwealth. It was not until in 1660 that Robert was at last able to take up the Rectorship. During the same year he received both his Bachelor’s Degree and his Doctorate in Divinity at Cambridge, both degrees being honorary.
The Rectory and Church had been greatly damaged during the Commonwealth period and during his time as Rector, Robert carried out some repairs and restoration to both buildings.

Robert Grey remained single and he was constantly at work in his Parish. He was found dead in his study at the Rectory on 9th July 1704 and was buried in the Chancel of the church. He was 94 years old.

1704 – JOHN SMITH, S.T.P.

Born in 1659, John was the eldest son of the Reverend William Smith, Rector of Lowther, Westmoreland.
John was educated at Bradford; Appleby and went on to St. John’s College, Cambridge where he obtained his B.A., M.A. and D.D. On leaving St. John’s he embarked on a career in the church. He became a Minor Canon of Durham in 1682; Chaplain to Lord Lansdowne, English Ambassador at Madrid; Domestic Chaplain to Nathaniel, Lord Crewe (Bishop of Durham); Rector and Master of St. Edmund’s Hospital, Gateshead and Prebendary of the 7th Stall at Durham. It was very unusual to have a Minor Canon become a Prebendary.

In July 1704, Dr. Smith became Rector of Bishopwearmouth. He found that both the Chancel and the Rectory were in a bad state of disrepair and set about rectifying the situation by using some £800 of his own money (£600 for the Rectory and £200 for the Chancel).

His period as Rector was also taken up with the writing of a History of Bede most of the work being done at Cambridge. Although he died just before it was finished, his son had it published under John’s name.
During this time there was a growing rift between the landed gentry of Bishopwearmouth and the new industrialists of Sunderland, over places of worship. The problem arose mainly because the people of Sunderland, a small port town a mile from Bishopwearmouth, had no place of worship of their own and they had to walk to the church at Bishopwearmouth only to find that there were no seats available. Even if they arrived early enough to find one, they were generally removed and treated as intruders, as almost all the pews were owned by the gentry.  Quite apart from the accommodation problem, the church at this time was the seat of Local Government, administering rates, taxes, laws and justice. The new industrialists (coal dealers, shipping magnates, shipbuilders, etc.) realised that the gentry would continue to look after their own interests at the expense of others. In 1712, the industrialists and townsfolk of Sunderland-near-the-Sea banded together and began raising money by subscription to create their own church and ultimately a new parish.

There is practically no documentary evidence for this period in the church records, but suffice it to say that the creation of a new parish, which would affect the income of the old one, was of some concern to the church officials of Bishopwearmouth. It is inconceivable that, with the power of the Rectors of those days (they were, in effect, the Lord of the Manor), a subscription to create a new parish would have been allowed without the wholehearted support of Dr, Smith.

Credit for the creation of the new Sunderland Parish is often given to Dr. John Bowes who was the Rector of Bishopwearmouth when the necessary Act of Parliament in 1719 was passed. However, it is probable that a great deal of the groundwork was done by Rector Smith.

John Smith died at Cambridge on 30th July 1715 and was buried in the chapel of St. John’s College. Thomas Baker, the historian of the College at the time, wrote the inscription for John’s monument in the Chapel.

1715 – JOHN BOWES, D.D.

The son of Thomas Bowes of Streatlam Castle and brother of Sir William Bowes, M.P. for County Durham, John was educated in Durham and went to Trinity College, Cambridge where he received his B.A., M.A. and D.D.

He became Rector of Wycliffe in Yorkshire, then of Elwick and, in 1715, of Bishopwearmouth. On 1st of May 1712 he was collated to the fifth Prebendal Stall at Durham Cathedral. (He had already been collated to the first Prebendal Stall at Durham on 21st May 1695). He held the living of Bishopwearmouth until his death on 14th January 1721.

In 1718 he presented a silver cup to Bishopwearmouth Parish Church and left money in his will for the creation of Almshouses on Bishopwearmouth Green. These were built in 1721, along the west side of the Green and housed 12 people. However, the gift did not include money for a living allowance for the occupants as was the case with most almshouses, so it seems likely that, although people were housed they still lived in considerable hardship. It would appear that money for the upkeep of the buildings was scarce and, over the years, the buildings fell into a state of disrepair and were later to be described as “… nothing more than a double row of hovels”. They were finally demolished when the area around the Green was cleared in the early 1960s.

John Bowes’ grandfather on his mother’s side was the famous Anthony Maxton, B.D. who became Chaplain to the ill-fated King Charles I.


After being a Prebendary of Sarum; Chaplain to the Bishop of Salisbury and Rector of Yelvertoft, John was appointed Rector of Bishopwearmouth in 1721, an appointment offered to him by Bishop Talbot of Durham, previously of Salisbury. The appointment was unpopular with certain people of the parish and, on the first Sunday he officiated, the Squires of Tunstall, Bainbridge Holme and Pallion Hall rose from their seats and walked out of the church in protest! Remarkably, all three were to end up seeing their sons marry the Reverend Lawrence’s three daughters!

Laurence is better known for his ‘green fingers’ than for his period as Rector of Bishopwearmouth. In 1714 he had published “The Clergyman’s Recreation showing the Pleasure and Profits of the Art of Gardening” and, whilst Rector of Bishopwearmouth he published the massive works (five volumes) of “A New System of Agriculture being a Complete Study of Husbandry and Gardening”. He died in 1732 and is buried in the Chancel of Bishopwearmouth.


The younger son of Dr. Edward Chandler the Bishop of Durham and grandson of Sir Humphrey Briggs, Wadham was educated at Eton and Clare Hall, Cambridge.

On the death of John Lawrence in May 1732, Bishop Chandler gave the Rectorship of Bishopwearmouth to Wadham Chandler, despite the fact that young Wadham was not yet of age to hold such a position. Robert Stillingfleet, the Rector of Ryton, held the post temporarily until Wadham came of age. The favour shown by Dr. Chandler can further be evidenced when one considers that Wadham was made Spiritual Chancellor of Sherburn Hospital in 1735 and holder of the 12th Prebendal Stall at Durham in the same year.

Wadham died at Aix, France in 1737 and was brought back to he buried in the Galilee Chapel, Durham Cathedral, one year later on 29th May 1738.


Born in 1703, Henry was the son of Dr. Henry Bland the Dean of Durham from 1728 to 1746. Dr. Henry was also Canon of Windsor and had been Provost of Eton College.

Young Henry was educated at Eton and Oxford where he matriculated at Christ Church in July 1722 and received his B.A. in 1726 at Corpus Christi. He later received an honorary M.A. from Cambridge.

In 1731 Henry became a Prebendal Stall holder at Lincoln and Rector of Gadway. On the resignation of the Rectorships of Washington and Bishopwearmouth by Wadham Chandler in 1735, Henry took over both posts and, on 2nd August 1737, he was installed in the 6th Prebendal Stall at Durham Cathedral. Ten years later he received his Doctorate of Divinity.

Henry died on 7th May 1768 and was buried in the northern part of the Nine Altars in Durham Cathedral. He was unmarried and his fortune of £80,000 was inherited by his sisters.


Following his education at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he received his B.A. in 1740 and M.A. in 1744, William took the oaths and was installed to the living of Ingram. He later became lecturer of St. Hilda’s, South Shields from 1758 to 1762 when he moved to the living at Whickham.

On 22nd August 1768 a dispensation was granted for William to hold two livings and on 8th September of the same year he became Rector of Bishopwearmouth. He held the two livings until his death in 1775. William was buried in the Chancel of Bishopwearmonth Church but the tombstone was removed during the alterations to the church in 1806-10.


(A full size painting may be found in the Choir Vestry in the north transept)

Having achieved his M.A. by the age of 23, Henry Egerton was proving his ability among a family of ecclesiastic notables of the period which included his father who was Bishop of Hereford, and his brother John who later became Bishop of Durham.

Henry was Rector of Whitchurch, Salop; Archdeacon of Derby; and a Prebendal Stall holder of York from which he resigned in May 1773 for the second Prebendal Stall of Durham which he retained until 1795. He was appointed Rector of Bishopwearmouth in 1776.

His stay at Bishopwearmouth was memorable for the way in which he entertained at the Rectory. Being a man of means and having one of the richest livings in England, Henry gave lavish parties which were attended by most of the prominent people in the North. It was said that there were few places in England which could put on the entertainment and dinners that were held at Bishopwearmouth Rectory during the days of Henry Egerton.

Henry was quite often at Durham and was involved in charitable work in that city. He died on 28th February 1795 at the age of 66 years and was interred in St. Giles Church, Durham.


Dr. Paley was born at Peterborough in July 1743, to the Reverend and Mrs. William Paley. Dr. Paley’s father was a teacher of some note and became headmaster of the Free Grammar School at Giggleswick, a post he held for 54 years until his death at the age of 88 in 1799.

Dr. Paley’s education was pursued at Giggleswick and then Christ’s College, Cambridge. His first two years at University were, in his own words, spent ‘happily, but unprofitably. I was constantly in society, where we were not immoral, but idle, and rather expensive …’ After a visit by a fellow student who pointed out the general idleness and waste of their lives, Paley altered his lifestyle and on taking his Bachelor’s degree, he became a Senior Wrangler.

Paley’s first post on leaving Cambridge was at the Greenwich Academy as a Classics Assistant. His interest in law was to give reason for his regular visits to the courts of justice in London which he found amusing and interesting.
By 1765 he had entered the ministry and his first and only curacy was at Greenwich under Dr. Hinchcliffe who later became Bishop of Peterborough. It was at this time that Paley, unhappy with the distribution of the money among the Assistants at the Academy, left that establishment.

In 1766 he was appointed a Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge and was soon appointed to the office of Tutor, in conjunction with Dr. John Law. These men became very good friends and for Paley the friendship was to lead to a recognition of his talents. John Law’s father was the Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge and then Bishop of Carlisle. Bishop Law made Paley his Chaplain. The Bishop’s third son was educated by Paley and later became Lord Ellenborough, one of the greatest legal minds of his period.

Paley’s first public sermon in London took place in the Royal Chapel at Whitehall. Although appearing to be ‘rough’ because of his Northern accent, his emphatic presentation and earnestness went down very well with the court audience. He continued to give tuition at Cambridge, lecturing on ethics, meta-physics and divinity, his friend John Law giving tuition in Mathematics. John Law left Cambridge on his appointment to a Prebendal Stall at his father’s cathedral in Carlisle and it was not long before Paley also left the academic life. Bishop Law offered Paley a small Rectorship at Musgrove in Westmoreland, which was accepted and taken up in 1775.

It was during this year that he married Miss Jane Hewitt of Carlisle, a member of a very prominent family of that city. In the following year he was appointed Vicar of Dalston, Cumberland and, on his appointment in 1777 as Vicar of St. Lawrence, Appleby, he resigned his Rectorship of Musgrove. He then spent six months each year at both Dalston and Appleby parishes, the posts giving him a total income of £290 per annum. Preferments continued to be granted to Dr. Paley. He became a Prebendary in June 1780; Archdeacon in 1782 and Chancellor in 1785, all appointments at Carlisle Cathedral.

In 1785 Paley embarked on the publication of works for which he was to achieve great renown. His ‘Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy’ was to prove an instant success, gaining for Paley a sum in excess of £1,000 a fortune in those days!

Dr. Law, the Bishop of Carlisle, died on 14th August 1787 at Rose Castle and some time later Dr. Paley wrote a short memoir of Dr. Law’s life as a tribute to his benefactor.

The Bishop of Ely, Dr. York, had occasion to offer Dr. Paley the chance to return to Cambridge University, this time as Master of Jesus College. Paley, however, declined the offer. One of his friends stated that Paley’s refusal of this post led to, ‘ . . a missed mitre!’.

In 1790 Paley published his second work ‘Horae Paulinae’. This work was to achieve great acclaim in academic and theological circles. However, he was to receive adverse criticism for a small tract he had published called ‘The Young Christian instructed in Reading and in the Principles of Religion – compiled for the Use of Sunday Schools at Carlisle’. Paley was accused by the Reverend L. Robertson of copying the latter’s publication, “An Introduction to the Study of Polite Literature”. The argument between the two clergymen was fierce and was conducted through the medium of the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1792. It was during this year that Paley was presented to the living of Addingham, near Great Salkeld – a living with the annual income of £140.  It was also at this time that he endeavoured to use his influence on the political scene by publishing his ‘Reasons for Contentment, addressed to the labouring part of the British Public’ and ‘Essay upon The British Constitution’. There is little doubt that the first of these works was in answer to the threat to the Anciente Regime throughout Europe as a result of the French Revolution of 1789 and the subsequent events within that country. The second work was to supplement the argument given in the first.

Dr. Paley soon became friendly with the new Bishop of Carlisle, Dr. Vernon (later to become Archbishop of York). Dr. Vernon offered Paley the post of Vicar of Stanwix and it was gratefully accepted for the reasons he candidly gave to a clerical friend: “Why Sir, I had two or three reasons for taking Stanwix in exchange. First, it saved me double house-keeping as Stanwix was within twenty minutes walk of my home in Carlisle. Secondly, it was fifty pounds a year more in value and, thirdly I began to find my stock of sermons coming over again too fast.”

In 1794 his celebrated “View of the Evidences of Christianity” was to put Paley firmly among the ‘greats’ of Theology. Honours were to shower on him. Dr. Porteus, Bishop of London, gave him a Prebendal Stall at St. Paul’s in August 1794. The Bishop of Lincoln, Dr. Tomline, gave him the Sub-Deanery at Lincoln and Dr. Shute Barrington, the Bishop of Durham, added to his rewards by giving him the valuable living of Bishopwearmouth. Dr. Paley vacated his posts at Stanwix and Addingham, as well as his Prebendal Stall and the Chancellorship at Carlisle.

From 1795 until 1805, Paley spent most of his time at his parish of Bishopwearmouth with a three month trip to his house at Lincoln each year. His wife died in 1791 leaving him a widower with eight children. He remarried in 1795 to a Miss Dobinson of Carlisle, a lady of reasonable wealth and standing.

At the request of the Bishop of Durham, Paley acted in the Commission of the Peace. Although law had always held an interest for Paley, his temper did not match the length of that interest and there were many occasions when the great man’s anger at the tedium of court practice boiled over.

In 1800 Dr. Paley was taken ill and although he recovered, the illness continued to return each year thereafter, with increasing venom. By 1802 he had given up his long visits to Lincoln although he still went to the cathedral city for short periods. He completed his last great work at Bishopwearmouth and this was called ‘Natural Theology’. Published in 1802, this is generally claimed by many to have been his most brilliant work.

Returning from a short visit to Lincoln in 1805, Dr. Paley fell ill again and, on the 25th May of that year, he died at Bishopwearmouth Rectory. He was buried near his first wife in the Cathedral of Carlisle.

There is little doubt that Paley is the outstanding theologian among the Rectors of Bishopwearmouth but he himself recognised that his time spent mainly at study for his literary works was rather at the expense of his ministry.

1805 – ROBERT GRAY, D.D.

The son of Robert Gray, a wealthy London silversmith, young Robert was educated at Eton and after matriculating at St. Mary’s Hall, Oxford, he went on to gain his B.A., M.A. and Doctorate of Divinity by 1802. His publication of ‘A Key to the Old Testament and Apocrypha’ gave Dr. Gray a considerable reputation. In 1804 he had been collated to the seventh Prebendal Stall at Durham and on the death of Dr. Paley he took over the Rectorship of Bishopwearmouth. As Dr. Paley’s successor, Dr. Gray was a very suitable choice of occupant of the Bishopwearmouth Rectory.

Bishopwearmouth Church had fallen into disrepair over the years and Dr. Gray set about the task of restoring it. The church was extensively renovated and it is to Dr. Gray that the credit goes for saving the Medieval Chancel and adding six bells in the West Tower.

Such was Dr. Gray’s enthusiasm in the restoration of this fine old church that he nominated people to donate sums of money toward the cost. One such nomination was Richard Pemberton, the owner of the estate of Bambridge Holme. Richard refused to pay the sum which he had been nominated to ‘donate’ and, after a lengthy period of arguing, Dr. Gray had to pay the sum (approximately £70) out of his own pocket!

Dr. Gray’s period at Bishopwearmouth lasted from 1805 until he became Bishop of Bristol in 1827. He died in 1833.
His son Robert was born at the Rectory, Bishopwearmouth and achieved fame as the first Bishop of Capetown in 1848. Dr. Gray’s nephew, also called Robert, was a curate at Bishopwearmouth in 1816 and later achieved renown as the Rector of Sunderland Parish for his abundant charitable work for the sick and poor of the town during his period of office. He tragically died from a fever he caught whilst visiting the sick of his parish. Upwards of thirty thousand people lined the streets for his funeral.


Dr. Wellesley was the son of the first Earl of Mornington and the brother of the famous first Duke of Wellington.
Among the many appointments prior to his Rectorship at Bishopwearmouth, Dr. Wellesley was Rector of Beachampton, of Staines, of St, Luke’s, Chelsea, and of Thesfield, Herts.

He received many honours, possibly as a result of his family connections rather than his ecclesiastical abilities. St. Paul’s, Westminster Abbey and Durham Cathedral were three of the places in which he held Prebendary Stalls. He was also made third Canon of St. Paul’s and Chaplain in Ordinary to the king. These connections with London churches resulted in him doing little in Bishopwearmouth, leaving the day-to-day running of the parish to his curates.

Dr. Wellesley presented two bells to Sunderland Parish Church (Holy Trinity) in 1829 and gave £200 towards the cost of the erection of St. Andrew’s Church, Deptford, Sunderland. He died in 1848 at the College, Durham City.


John Eden was the son of Thomas Eden, Secretary to the Governor of Ceylon and a member of a very famous old County Durham family. Educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge, John received his M.A. in 1840, having been ordained into the priesthood in 1837.

In 1847 he was made an Honorary Canon of Durham and he was appointed Rector of Bishopwearmouth in the following year. In 1864 he was offered and accepted the post of Rector of Sedgefield, an appointment he held until 1885. During the years 1866 to 1880 he held the post of Proctor in Northern Convocation. He died in the summer of 1885.


The eldest son of Richard Cockin of Portsmouth, William was educated at Winchester and Brazenose College, Oxford where he received his B.A. in 1835 and M.A. in 1841. After entering the Ministry he continued on an academic path and held the post of Headmaster of Kidderminster Grammar School from 1843 until his appointment as Rector of St. George’s, Birmingham in 1851.

In 1864 he was to leave Birmingham to take up the Rectorship of Bishopwearmouth until his retirement in 1883. During his time at Bishopwearmouth, he carried out his duties with diligence, being responsible for the installation of new pews and a new pulpit in the church and also for renovating the Bowes Alms houses on Bishopwearmouth Green.

He was instrumental in the passing of the Bishopwearmouth Rectory Act in 1867 which redistributed the ancient wealth of the parish and Rectory amongst the new daughter churches. In 1869 he instituted an elected Church Committee which was the forerunner of today’s Parochial Church Council. It was also in this year that the Church Rate system was abolished, leading to a financial crisis for the church. This was made worse by the removal of many members of the congregation to the new parish of Christ Church in the 1870’s. In order to alleviate this crisis, the Revd. Cockin reluctantly introduced church collections.

Among the honours bestowed on him were the posts of Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Durham (1864-79); Rural Dean of Wearmouth (1865-83) and Canon of Durham in 1867.

He married Frances Selina Browne, and after her death the parishioners of Bishopwearmouth erected a window in the Chancel in her memory. His son William was curate of Bishopwearmouth from 1864 to 1866 and later became Vicar of Medomsley.

Canon Cockin died at York in 1889, six years after being forced to retire from the Rectorship through ill health. He was buried in Bishopwearmouth Cemetery.


Born in Markham, Norfolk, Robert was educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge where he gained his M.A. in 1859. In the same year he gained the Crosse University Scholarship and in due course, became a Fellow of his college. He was ordained into the priesthood in 1857 and prior to coming to the Diocese of Durham in 1874, he served the church in a number of posts in the South of England.

From the time of his appointment in 1874 as Vicar of Bishop Auckland, he received many ecclesiastical positions. He was Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Durham; Chaplain to Bishop Lightfoot and Bishop Westcott (1879-1901); Rural Dean of North Darlington (1875-80); Rural Dean of Auckland (1875-83); Proctor in Convocation (1880-82); Commissary to the Bishop of Rupertsland (1875-1905); Commissary to the Bishop of Mauritius (1898-1904); Commissary to the Archbishop of Rupertsland in 1905 and Rural Dean of Wearmouth from 1896 to 1907.

His period as Rector of Bishopwearmouth lasted from 1883 until his death in November 1907, a period of 24 years which was to see the continuation of the creation of daughter parishes of Bishopwearmouth.

His work as Secretary to the Church Missionary Society during the early part of his career created in him an avid interest in missionary work which he supported throughout his period in County Durham. He presented a marble font to the church in memory of his son who died in India in 1902 and this still stands in the Northern part of the Narthex, near the West Tower.


Educated at Exeter College, Oxford, Herbert gained his B.A. in 1886 and his M.A. in 1889.

His first ecclesiastical post was that of Curate at St. James, Hatcham where he remained until he left for Calcutta in 1890. He stayed in India for ten years, returning to Sunderland to take up the position of Rector of St. Paul’s, Hendon. In 1904 he became Vicar of Bishop Auckland and on the death of Archdeacon Long in 1907, he was appointed Rector of Bishopwearmouth and inducted 23rd April 1908.

In 1910 he was made an Honorary Canon of Durham having been Chaplain to the Bishop of Durham since 1908. At the time of his appointment to Bishopwearmouth he was also appointed Rural Dean of Wearmouth, and held both positions until 1923. Among other positions he held were Secretary to the Diocesan Conference and Proctor in Convocation (1916-23); Commissary to the Bishop of the Niger (1921). For many years he sat on the Sunderland Royal Infirmary Committee and was a member of the Sunderland Board of Guardians.

During his time the Rectory in Gray Road was built (1858). This building, which subsequently became part of the University complex, was later sold and another Rectory bought in Tunstall Road.


Born the son of the Reverend William Willson and Mary Ann, daughter of the first Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Wynne was educated at Marlborough College, London University and gained his M.A. at Wycliffe College, Oxford.

He then went to Germany where he was a tutor and returned to England after three years (1888) to become Assistant Master and later also the Chaplain, of Berkhampstead School. In 1895 he entered the Church of England as a priest and two years later was Domestic Chaplain to the Bishop of Hereford, a post he held until 1901 and returned to hold from 1910 to 1920.
In 1901 he left Hereford for Liverpool where he was Assistant Curate at Fairfield (1901-03); Vicar of Kimbolton (1903-08) and Editor of the Liverpool Diocesan Magazine. He returned to Hereford in 1908 where he was Rector of St, Nicholas; Rural Dean; Prebendary of Hereford Cathedral and Editor of the Hereford Diocesan Messenger.

He moved to the north east in 1923 to take up the post of Rector of Bishopwearmouth. During his period here, the parish church showed signs of collapse due to mining subsidence and Wynne commissioned a structural engineer to look into the problem. A report was submitted in 1928 stating that there was no immediate danger. However, within three years it became obvious that the situation had reached a critical stage and the Reverend Wilison initiated a large scale reconstruction and repair of this ancient parish church. Owing to ill-health, Wynne resigned his positions as Rector, Rural Dean of Wearmouth and Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Durham, in 1934. This was just a year prior to the completion of the reconstruction of the church. He retired to Bristol where he lived until his death in May 1958.


Having gained a First Class Honours B.A. degree in English (with distinction) at Christ Church, Oxford in 1920, Robert went on to gain his M.A. in Theology.

He served as a curate in Bermondsey and later at Putney before becoming Vicar of St. James, Barrow-in-Furness from 1927 to 1934. In 1934 he was Rural Dean of Dalton and, in the same year went on to his appointment as Rector of Bishopwearmouth. He left Bishopwearmouth in 1941 on his appointment as Archdeacon of Doncaster and Vicar of Melton-on-the-Hill holding both posts until 1947. During this time he also held the post of Rural Dean of Doncaster and Chaplain to His Majesty the King (1944-47).

From 1947 he was the Suffragan Bishop of Woolwich until his resignation in 1959. Other appointments in this period included Archdeacon of Lewisham (1947-55), Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Southwark and from 1959 – 1966 Dean of Rochester.

During his period at Bishopwearmouth he was to witness changes for the people of Sunderland and in the church building. On his appointment in 1934 the church was in a great state of disruption, being in the throes of a major reconstruction. The Reverend Stannard had the task of supervising the completion of this change and did the job admirably. At the same time the town was going through one of the greatest economic slumps ever known. The poverty in the town appalled him to such an extent that he was soon involved heavily in the introduction of various schemes to alleviate the problems of the poor and needy. One of his successes in this vein was his persuasiveness in getting the Local Authority to re-introduce the “Mayor’s Boot Fund”. The aim of this fund was to provide footwear for those children and adults too poor to provide for themselves.

The Right Reverend Stannard retired to Fleet in Hampshire in 1966.


Born in 1905, J. F. Richardson was educated at Trinity Hall, Carnbridge where he received his B.A in 1925 and his M.A. in 1930. He was ordained in 1930 and served in a number of posts in the south of England before moving north to take up the appointment of Rector of Bishopwearmouth in 1941, a post he was to retain until 1952.

Among other positions the Reverend Richardson held were Rural Dean of Wearmouth (1947-52); Proctor in Convocation and Honorary Canon of Durham (1950-52); first Canon Resident of Derby (1955-73); Archdeacon of Derby (1952-73); Archdeacon Emeritus (1973); Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Derby (1952-73) and Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen (1952-75).

During the Second World War, the East Window of the Chancel of Bishopwearmouth Parish Church was blown in by an enemy bomb. Under the guidance of Rector Richardson, the window was replaced by the present one which was dedicated as a memorial to those who died during that war.

The Venerable Richardson retired in 1975 and remained in Derby.


Educated at Christ College, Cambridge, the Reverend Bishop was ordained at Southwark in 1933. Until 1938 he was a curate at St. John’s Walworth and from there he came north to Middlesborough as the Curate of St. John’s. He moved back to London where he was Vicar and Rural Dean of Camberwell until 1949 when he was appointed Rector of Blakeney with Langham Parva and Rural Dean of Walsiugham. In 1953 he was given the posts of Rector of Bishopwearmouth and Rural Dean of Wearmouth, holding both positions until his promotion to Suffragan Bishop of Malmesbury in 1962. In conjunction with his Bishopric he was Canon of Bristol and Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Bristol. He resigned these posts in 1973 and went into semi-retirement as Priest-in-Charge of Cley-next-Sea with Wiveton in 1976.


Born in 1914, Donald Goldie gained his B.A. and M.A. at St. Chad’s College, Durham. He entered the ministry in 1938 and among his curacies was Christ Church, Bishopwearmouth (1939-41).

He was Vicar of St. Luke’s, Hartlepool (1944-49); Archdeacon of Cyprus and Chaplain of Nicosia with Kyrenia (1949-55); Vicar of Holy Trinity, Darlington and Chaplain to Darlington Memorial Hospital (1955-62). Rector of Bishopwearmouth (1962-70); Chaplain of St. Hilda’s Millfield (1966-70); Chaplain to Sunderland Royal Infirmary (1963-70); Honorary Canon of Durham (1965-70) and Vicar of Bedlington, Northumberland from 1970. On his retirement he spent some time in the Bedlington area before moving south to be near his family.

During his time as Rector of Bishopwearmouth, Donald Goldie took a great interest in the history of this ancient parish and he was able to write a small book on the Mother Church of Bishopwearmouth. This book has proved a useful aid to those studying the changing face of the churches in Sunderland.


Having obtained two First Class Honours degrees at Cambridge by the age of 23, Kenneth Skelton entered the ministry in 1940 and returned to Cambridge to gain his M.A. in 1944.

He served as a curate in three parishes in the Midlands before taking up the position of Lecturer at Wells Theological College from 1946-50. He then became Vicar of Howe Bridge (1950-55); Rector of Walton-on-the-Hill (1955-62); Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Liverpool (1957-62); Bishop of Matabele Bulawayo (July 1962 until he resigned in 1970); Assistant Bishop of Durham, Rector of Bishopwearmouth and Rural Dean of Wearmouth (1970-75); Church Commissioner for Matabeleland (1971-75) and Bishop of Lichfield from 1975 – 84. He retired in 1984 but continued to act as Assistant Bishop for both Derby and Sheffield diocese.

During his period at Bishopwearmouth, Bishop Skelton was much respected and it was during his Rectorship that he received the award of C.B.E. (1972).

Bishop Skelton retired to Sheffield.


At the age of 25 Timothy Tyndall obtained his B.A. from Jesus College Cambridge and then moved to Wells Theological College. He was Curate of Warsop, Southwell from 1951 – 55; Rector of St Leonard’s Newark 1955 – 60 and Vicar of Sherwood 1960 – 75. Under Ian Ramsay, Bishop of Durham, certain benefices in the diocese were suspended in order to facilitate the implementation of a project to develop Wearmouth Deanery so Timothy Tyndall came to Bishopwearmouth as Priest-in-Charge in 1975. By this time St Hilda’s Church in Chester Road had been demolished and the parish title changed to St Michael & All Angels with St Hilda to incorporate the added area..

In 1981 the interior of the building was altered by the insertion of oak panelling separating both side aisles from the main body of the church and thus creating a restaurant, meeting rooms and an office. The work was supervised by Rev Eric Shegog, (Town Centre Chaplain) and designated as the “Action in Retirement Centre”. The facilities being used by active people with leisure time during the day and opening the building seven days a week.

During his time in Sunderland Timothy Tyndall was also Rural Dean of Wearmouth and Honorary Canon of Durham: the latter position he held until his retirement in 1990. Between 1985 and 1990.Timothy worked as Chief Secretary of ACCM in London, maintaining contact with parochial duties by holding a Bishop’s “Permission to Officiate” in both the London and Southwark diocese.

On leaving Sunderland Timothy donated to the parish, his collection of embroidered copes which are used for festivals and civic occasions.

Canon Tyndall retired and has a home in the south of England.


Born in 1936 Granville Gibson spent some time in industry before entering the ministry. He entered Cuddesdon College in 1969 and was ordained deacon in 1971.

From 1971 – 73 he was Curate of St Paul’s Cullercoates, Tynemouth; Team Vicar of Cramlington from from 1973 – 77 and Vicar of St Clare’s, Newton Aycliffe from 1977 – 85. He was appointed Rector of St Michael & All Angels with St Hilda, the benefice having been restored, and Rural Dean of Wearmouth in 1985.

In 1991 the creation of a Team Ministry by the linking of the parish with that of Holy Trinity, Sunderland (the old Parish of Sunderland-by-the Sea) resulted in a change of title for Granville Gibson as he became the first Team Rector of the renamed –
Parish of Sunderland.

Additional members of the Team were Chaplains to the Polytechnic (later the University). He was made an Honorary Canon of Durham in 1988 and became Archdeacon of Auckland in 1993.

On his retirement in 2001 he moved to Darlington.


Like his predecessor, Brian Hails pursued a different career before entering the ministry. He began his theological training on the North-East Ordination Course in 1977 and was ordained deacon in 1981. He became a non-stipendary minister working in Harton, South Shields between 1981 and 1987 and Industrial Chaplain with Northumbria Industrial Mission from 1987 – 1990. He was made Honorary Canon of Durham in 1993.

The departure of Granville Gibson and the arrival of Brian Hails was separated by 3 years and the parish survived this lengthy interregnum as support was provided by other members of the Team. The situation was not dissimilar to that experienced by members of congregations prior to the 18th century when rectors were noted for their absence from the parish.
Brian’s time as Team Rector of Sunderland (1996 and 1999) saw the inauguration of St Michael’s as Sunderland Minster with the impressive new title of –

“The Minster Church of St Michael & All Angels, Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland”.

The work begun in 1981 by Rev Eric Shegog (Town Centre Chaplain) to turn the church into a resource for the whole region seven days a week was further developed under Brian Hails. Rooms already used for leisure activities by the active retired were altered to create a technology centre run by the City of Sunderland College and links were formed with industrial groups who used the Minster as a place for lectures and meetings.

Brian Hails retired in 1999 and continues to live in South Shields.

2000 – STEPHEN RONALD TAYLOR (last Rector)

After training at Cranmer Hall in Durham Stephen Taylor became Curate of St Mary & St Cuthbert’s, Chester-le-Street in 1983; Vicar of St Matthew’s Newbottle in 1987 and Rector of All Saints Stranton, Hartlepool in 1992.

Stephen Taylor’s appointment as Team Rector of Sunderland in May 2000 almost coincided with his appointment as Honorary Canon of the Diocese of the Rift Valley, Tanzania (September 1999). This was granted in recognition of Stephen’s work for the Kilimatinde Trust, a charity supporting schools and a hospital in Tanzania, for which he is secretary.

2007 onwards – Extra parochial place of worship.

Parish shared among 3 surrounding parishes of St Marks, Millfield St Nicholas, Barnes and St Ignatius, Hendon.

Stephen no longer rector (as the church no longer had parish) therefore last rector of the ancient parish of Bishopwearmouth.

He continued his work here with the new title of Canon Provost aided by the Minster Priest, Revd Martin Anderson, the Industrial Chaplain Revd Stephen Hazlett and the University Chaplain Revd Canon Dr Stephen Fagbemi.

On 18 September 2011 Stephen was installed as Archdeacon of Maid-stone, Kent .