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Chapter History
Centenary Jewel

Iron Bridge


Freemasonry - Michael Scarth
Freemasonry - John George Lambton
Freemasonry - George Garbutt
Freemasonry - Dr. Tipping Brown
Freemasonry - Dr. William Reid Clanny
Freemasonry - Sir Hedworth Williamson
Freemasonry - Sir Ralph Milbanke
Freemasonry - Sir Cuthbert Sharp

Freemasonry - Sunderland Parish
Freemasonry - Sunderland Orphanage
Freemasonry - Exchange Building
Freemasonry - Pemberton Main

Freemasonry - United Grand Lodge of England - Coat of Arms
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United Grand Lodge of England

Last Update
6th February 2008







Royal Arch Masonry - Holy Trinity Church

Fig.1 Church of Holy Trinity in 19th Century

This Church was designed by William Etty of York, built in 1719 and consecrated in September of that year by the Bishop of London.

The Church and its adjacent Rectory were expressly built because of the rising population in the Port of Sunderland area.

The Royal Arms and also those of Lord Crew then Bishop of Durham embellish the ground floor gallery.

It is interesting to note that in 1803 Thomas Wilson, the schoolmaster turned engineer who was the architect and partner in the building of the Iron Bridge, supervised the renewal of the roof and several windows, the expense of which was defrayed by the sale of the lead from the original roof.

The remains of some of the Rectors of Sunderland are said to be interred in the ‘Rector’s Vault’ but burials in any other part of the church were prohibited.

However, because of the rising population the original cemetery had been extended on many occasions and at that time a considerable part of the town moor was being marked out for future burials.

Garbutt, when describing the many tombs and headstones before him, was moved to remark:-

“that in the reflections suggested by a contemplation of the many memorials of mortality, we are made sensible of the short and transitory state of human existence”.

On another occasion, in the churchyard of Bishopwearmouth Rectory, and possibly in a lighter frame of mind, he noted the following inscription on a gravestone:-

Under this stone his friends may see
The last Remains of poor George Bee,
Laborious Bee, had oft earn’d money,
As oft hard winters eat the honey.
Of all the Bees were in the hive,
None toiled like him are now alive.
A man more cruel than a ….
Destroy’d him coming from his work,
Without a word, without a frown,
The horrid monster rode him down:
And thus, though shocking to relate,
Poor Bee alas! Met with his fate.
Since life’s uncertain, let us all
Prepare to meet death’s awful call.


You have read above that the Church of Holy Trinity was built in 1719 because the population of Sunderland was rising so quickly, built three quarters of a century before the ancient Phoenix Hall and the world renowned Sunderland Iron Bridge were constructed.

Because Sunderland did not have a Town Hall in its own right, the Church in its early years served virtually in that capacity, as well as in its spiritual role. Of course, from a masonic viewpoint, it also played a very colourful role on that unique day of 24th September 1793 when the Town’s dignitaries paraded the short distance from Phoenix Hall, accompanied by the town’s freemasons, to pray and give thanks before processing on to lay the foundation stone for Rowland Burdon’s unique Iron Bridge!!

Given the City’s current restoration of many of Sunderland’s fine buildings it is to be hoped that the Church of Holy Trinity will be restored and that Wearsiders and others will be aware of the significance of the connection between Phoenix Hall, the Church of Holy Trinity and the world famous Iron Bridge.

Fig.2 Existing Church of Holy Trinity (Side View)
Fig.3 Existing Church of Holy Trinity (Rear View)
Fig.4 Existing Church of Holy Trinity (Front Door)

On 24th September 1793 after William Henry Lambton, Provincial Grand Master of Durham had opened a Grand Lodge in Phoenix Hall with 200 masons they were met at the gate by the magistrates, commissioners and other dignitaries and in procession made their way to this door of Sunderland Parish Church.

The masons formed two lines and the dignitaries entered the Church to take up their seats.

The masons then entered the Church and proceeded to the gallery (see stairs to gallery below)

Fig.5 View in pathway window near rear of Church

Possibly an organ in view near where the Town’s dignitaries were seated. 

Fig.6 View in pathway window near front of Church

The stairs used by the masons to go to the gallery are clearly visible. 

Interior of Church not accessible on 14th November 2004
Permission to view the interior will be requested in the future.

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