parish of the upper skerne

Sage Choir concert at St Edmund’s Church

Sage Gateshead Chamber Choir is to present ‘an evening of beautiful and varied choral music’ at St Edmund’s Church, Sedgefield, on Saturday, March 30, to raise money for repairs to the church roof and redecoration of the interior of the North Transept after raids by lead thieves.

‘The Call of the Heavens’ programme will feature pieces by Bach, Rutter, Parry and Haydn and some not so well-known names such as Eric Whitacre, Eriks Esenvalds and Harold Arden.

The performance begins at 7pm. Tickets cost £10 and include refreshments. They are available from church members or on the door.

“We are delighted that a choir (pictured) with such a great reputation has agreed to help with our fund-raising campaign. Although we have enough money to repair the roof, we still need to redecorate the interior of the church where water leaked through and stained the walls”, said the Revd. Geoff Short, Team Rector of the Parish of the Upper Skerne, this week.

Churchwarden Brian Mutch says that work on the roof will begin in the early Spring.

Sedgefield Calendar Sale‘a real bargain’ at just £3

The 2019 slimline Sedgefield calendar produced by the Friends of St Edmund’s Church is about to go on sale at the special bargain price of just £3. 

It features colourful, eye-catching images of scenes in and around Sedgefield taken by local photographers and comes complete with a sturdy envelope.

“The calendar has proved so popular that we have had to order two re-prints but we still have a few left for sale,” said membership secretary Brian Mutch this week. “Like most companies who produce calendars and still have some in stock at the end of January, we have decided to offer them for sale on a first-come-first-served basis. At just £3, they are a real bargain”.

The calendars are available from the sales area in St Edmund’s Church or by calling Brian on 01740 622302. 

Sales will help fund conservation projects at the church.

Appeal to identify mystery men in Sedgefield photograph

Mystery surrounds the identities of two men whose photograph has been discovered behind a dust-covered, framed picture in the bell-ringing chamber of St Edmund’s Church in Sedgefield. Church members are now keen to try and find out who they are.

“We came across the photograph when the brown backing paper on the framed watercolour print disintegrated but we don’t have any idea how long it has been gathering dust”, said churchwarden and bell-ringer Brian Mutch this week.

The photograph shows a possible father and son and was clearly taken by a professional photographer in a studio. It was tucked away behind one of two wood-framed watercolour prints found in the ringing chamber.

The photograph was hidden behind a copy of the classic ‘And when did you last see your father’ painting by William Frederick Yeames which depicts the son of a Royalist being questioned by Parliamentarians during the English Civil War.

The second print features ‘The Toast’ by Royal Academician Richard Jack.  Mr Mutch says that the two were clearly intended to be displayed as a pair.

Anyone with information about the photograph is asked to contact Mr Mutch on 01740 622302.

Air Ambulance and Church benefit from Sedgefield Treefest

Supporters of this year’s highly-successful Christmas Tree Festival in Sedgefield have helped swell the coffers of the Great North Air Ambulance service and enabled work to start on external roof repairs and internal decoration at St Edmund’s Church following raids on the building by lead- thieves.

This week, the Team Rector of the Upper Skerne, the Revd. Geoffrey Short, presented a cheque for £1790 to Air Ambulance fund-raiser Joanne Murphy and a cheque for the same amount to Church Reader Michael King who helped lead the Church roof repair appeal. Work on the building is expected to start in the early Spring.

The presentations were made at a social evening in the church for sponsors of the 47 displays which, said the Rector, had seen St Edmund’s ‘decorated in a marvellous way’ and was ‘a wonderful example of the community and the church working together in partnership”.

The Rector thanked all who supported the festival, the sponsors and organisers who had made it ‘such a great success’.

Second chance to see Sedgefield TreeFest

Anyone who missed out on the delights of this year’s stunning Christmas Tree Festival at St Edmund’s Church, Sedgefield, still has a chance to see what made it such a great success.

Thanks to Sedgefield couple Allan and Susan Blakemore, a slideshow video of the 47 displays is now available on YouTube at

The photographs were taken by keen amateur photographer Allan and the presentation and sound were co-ordinated by Susan.

“We are extremely grateful to both Allan and Susan for providing such a wonderful record of the Festival,” said organising team member Brenda Moore this week.

The TreeFest raised over £3500 which will be shared between the Great North Air Ambulance and the appeal for funds to repair the north transept roof at St Edmund’s which was targeted by lead thieves on two occasions in 2017.

Open invitation to meet Sedgefield’s new Rector

Sedgefield’s new Rector, the Revd. Geoffrey Short, has issued an open invitation to the local community to meet him for tea or coffee at the Rectory in Durham Road on Saturday, January 19, as part of his ‘getting to know you’ exercise.

Geoff has made it clear that he is keen to meet as many locals as possible, whether they are members of any local church or not, as soon as possible.

The Rectory will be open from 10.30am until 2.30pm. No appointment is necessary.

‘Exciting time’ forecast as Upper Skerne churches welcome two new clergy

Church members and well-wishers from many parts of the North East flocked to St Edmund’s Church, Sedgefield, this week to celebrate the institution and induction of a new Team Rector and the licensing of a new Team Vicar in the parish of the Upper Skerne.

The service was led by the Bishop of Durham, the Right Revd. Paul Butler, who described the occasion as “a very exciting moment in the life of the parish”.

New Team Rector is the Revd. Geoffrey Short, who comes to the parish from the Diocese of Newcastle where he was Team Vicar of Christ the King in the North Tyneside village of Wideopen. He replaces the Revd. Michael Gobbett who left Sedgefield more than two years ago to become Rector of Whitby with Ruswarp in the Diocese of York. 

New Team Vicar is the Revd. Elizabeth Bland, formerly Team Vicar in the Great Aycliffe Team ministry, who has been appointed to a half-time post. She takes over from the Revd. Michael Thompson who retired in August.

Their arrival in the community has been warmly welcomed by church members throughout the parish which includes the villages of Fishburn, the Trimdons and Bishop Middleham.

Typical of the comments at the induction service was that by parish warden Brian Mutch who said: “The ministry team has done a sterling job in very challenging circumstances during the past two years and we are now looking forward to working with Geoff and Elizabeth to grow our churches and to make them more attractive to the wider community, particularly our young people”

The new Rector has already moved into Sedgefield Rectory on Durham Road.  The Team Vicar will make her home at the Vicarage at Trimdon Grange.

The induction service saw the Rector having his hand placed on the entrance door to St Edmund’s by the Archdeacon of Auckland, the Ven. Rick Simpson, and presented with a set of keys to the church before he caused the church bell to be rung to signify his acceptance of responsibility for the pastoral care for parishioners. Both he and the Team Vicar were then formally welcomed by representatives of other ecumenical partners, civic dignitaries and the local community.

During the service, the Team Rector and Team Vicar were each presented with a unique stained glass cross for their new homes made by the Bishop’s wife to mark the double celebration.

Tree festival cash for air ambulance and church  

Sedgefield’s recent Christmas Tree Festival in St Edmund’s Church has raised over £3,500 which will be shared equally between the church and the Great North Air Ambulance.

The cash for the church will help repair damage to the roof of the south transept which was targeted in 2017 by lead thieves who caused £30,000 worth of damage.

Reader Michael King (pictured with television personality Pam Royle who opened the festival) said this week: “The result reflects the magnificent efforts of a small group of volunteers who deserve our great thanks as well as the generosity of all our various supporters”.

He also praised the local businesses and voluntary organisations who sponsored and decorated the 47 displays and which he described as “a great example of the community spirit evident in Sedgefield”.

The free, six-day festival attracted visitors from all over the North East.

Organisers are planning a formal presentation of cheques to the Great North Air Ambulance and church representatives early in the new year.

Crib delights at St Alban’s

The eye-catching, illuminated Nativity scene at St Alban’s Church, Trimdon Grange, delighted worshippers at this year’s Carol Service on Sunday afternoon.

The crib was originally produced by church member Malcom Rutter and was recently updated with new lighting with his help of his grandson, Adam.

The Crib and Christmas tree were blessed during Sunday’s service which was led by lay minister Ron Eyley who thanked those responsible for the ‘delightful floral decorations’. Readings were by Ron and Anne Eyley and Maureen Wilks, the Advent candle was lit by Sylvia Rutter and the organist was Alex Ord.
Refreshments after the service were organised by Sylvia and Irene Grint.
Footnote: The Carol Service at St Mary Magdalene’s, Trimdon Village, will be held at 5.30pm on Christmas Eve

Centuries-old tradition comes alive in Bishop Middleham

The old Mexican tradition of Posada (a Spanish word meaning ‘inn’) is now being celebrated in Bishop Middleham.

Villager Neil Stevenson explained this week: “It’s a tradition that dates back 400 yearsto a time whenyoung people dressed as Mary and Joseph travelled from house to house in the weeks leading up to Christmas, would ask for a room for the night and tell people about the arrival of Jesus.

“On Christmas Eve they would visit the local church to re-enact the nativity and place figures of Mary and Joseph in a crib.

“Modern day Posada uses nativity figures to travel from place to place. This gives each household in a community the chance to make time to think about Jesus this Christmas time. We hope local people will enjoy hosting Mary and Joseph for a night or two”

Neil added: “The travelling crib at St Michael’s Church in Bishop Middleham set out this week and will be staying at households across the village each night. It will visit older folk, families, Happy Days Playgroup, Rainbows and Brownies amongst others. There is a message book to share with others on the journey, a prayer and Christmas chocolates for everyone, too”.

He thanked St Michael’s C of E Primary School and The Village Post Office for their support and said that church members wanted to send Advent blessings to all members of the local community.

Sedgefield Tree festival ‘a stunning success’

Tyne Tees television personality Pam Royle has described this year’s Christmas Tree Festival in Sedgefield’s ancient St Edmund’s Church as ‘a stunning success’.

She praised those who had produced the 47 ‘absolutely splendid’ displays and commented: “I thought the first festival two years ago was really wonderful but this year you have really excelled yourselves with some truly imaginative interpretations of A Carol for Christmas”.

Pam, a popular visitor to Sedgefield, officially opened the festival and headed the judging panel which included her husband, Mike, and church members Melanie and John Fordham

Lay Reader Michael King later described the free, six-day event as ‘a great example of the community spirit evident in Sedgefield’.

There was special praise from both Pam and Michael for those who sponsored the trees and also for organisers John Burrows, Anne Eyley, Audrey Flanagan, Michael King, Julie and David Latheron, Brenda Moore, Julia Rowsby and Rachel Stephenson who welcomed Pam to the festival.

Winners of the local voluntary organisations section were: first: Sedgefield Harriers with a much-admired display of the Twelve Days of Christmas which featured characters and birds created from wooden clothes-pegs. Joint second were ‘Escape’ and Sedgefield Women’s Institute, with St Edmund’s Choir, Sedgefield Squash Club and Sedgefield Flower Club equal third.

In the business community section, ‘Peridot’ speciality gift and interiors shop in  Sedgefield took first prize with an exquisite, all-white and silver display depicting ‘In the bleak mid-Winter’. Joint second were ‘From Loft to Loved’ and Sainsbury’s Sedgefield store and in third place were Clifton Lodge Vets and ‘Betty’s Boudoir’.  Judges added an extra award for the Number Four Teashop with its dramatic interpretation of ‘We Three Kings’.

The festival will benefit two local charities – the Great North Air Ambulance and the Church Roof Appeal to replace lead stolen from the church in 2017. Though sufficient funds have been raised to cover the cost of replacing the lead with a stainless steel lead lookalike, money is still needed for restoration and redecoration work in the interior of the North Transept which was damaged by water seeping through the roof before the lead theft was discovered.

A short service of carols and prayers in a crowded St Edmund’s Church before the traditional Snow Parade on Saturday afternoon was led by Michael King and Panny Pighills with Alex Ord as accompanist.

Footnote: Parish Administrator and Festival team member Rachel Stephenson said later that a review of the festival early in the New Year would include visitor requests to make the Christmas Tree Festival a biennial event.

Sedgefield’s Great War: a new book by Alison

When she is not hard at work dealing with business matters for the Friends, our secretary, Alison Hodgson, enjoys nothing more than delving into the history of Sedgefield and its former community.

Her most recent research has led to the publication of a book to mark the end of the Great War which includes an insight into how life at home was affected by the conflict.

It has already been voted a great hit by readers.

‘Sedgefield during the First World War’ was produced with the support of Sedgefield Local History Society.

It’s Alison’s second book on the history of the town, costs just £6 and is available by emailing her at or from Sedgefield Council Offices, the Post Office and Hardwick Park.

Local History Society secretary Norma Neal has described the book as “an invaluable addition to the material we are assembling about the history of our town.”

Spring start on repairs to Sedgefield Church roof

Repairs to the roof of the North Transept at Sedgefield’s centuries old church - which was twice attacked by ‘avaricious lead thieves’ in 2017 - will begin in the Spring, it was announced this week.

Reader Michael King confirmed that sufficient funds were now available to cover the estimated £30,000 cost of repairing the roof at St Edmund’s and safeguarding its valuable 13th century timbers.

“The roof has been made watertight and will withstand the winter weather”, said Mr King.

Donations by well-wishers of £10,067, an insurance payout of £10,000 and a single grant of £10,000 have made it possible to start work on replacing the lead with a stainless steel lookalike which is not as attractive to thieves. 

Any surplus or further donations will be used to help redecorate the walls of the church which were badly stained by rainwater seeping through the timbered roof before the theft was discovered.

Church officials say they are extremely grateful to the many people who have answered the appeal for donations to carry out the repair and “who have clearly demonstrated how much they value St Edmund’s”.

Choir member ‘lookalikes’ at Sedgefield Tree Festival ?

The choir at Sedgefield’s ancient parish church will double in size during the Christmas Tree Festival at St Edmund’s – thanks to the efforts of current choristers.

They have been hard at work crafting miniature choral members in striking purple and white robes and one gentleman in a cassock and surplice to illustrate their ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ display – and which even features one member’s pet black cat.

Several people who have had a sneak preview of the figures comment on how much they look like current and recently-departed members of the choir.

The festival will have 47 displays on the theme of ‘A Carol for Christmas’.  It will be opened at 10am on Saturday, December 1, by television personality Pam Royle and will be open to visitors until Thursday. December 6.

Admission is free but donations will be welcome. All profits will be shared between the Great North Air Ambulance and St Edmund’s Church Roof appeal.

Christmas hampers will aid refugees and asylum-seekers

Asylum seekers and refugees in the Tees Valley will benefit from Christmas hampers provided by caring members of St Edmund’s Church in Sedgefield.

The hampers of basic foodstuffs and toiletries will be forwarded to ‘Justice First’, a voluntary organisation in Stockton, as they have been for a number of years.

Church Reader Michael King said this week:” The hampers are always well-received  by asylum seekers and refugees who have very little money, particularly if they are nicely wrapped because this adds to the pleasure of those who receive them. All the hampers will be delivered and distributed in good time for Christmas”.

Staple items like tea, coffee, sugar and soap (but no tobacco or alcohol) are especially welcome and can be packed into a shoe box or similar container and delivered to St Edmund’s before Sunday, December 9.

Further information is available from Michael on 01740 620910.

Anne’s Angels set for Tree Festival

Hand-made miniature angels will grace the Friends’ display in this year’s Christmas Tree Festival at St Edmund’s Church.

They have been produced as part of a quilling exercise by Friends’ committee member Anne Eyley who has been learning the craft under the watchful eye of church member  and experienced ‘quiller’ Delene Rogers.

They have been made to illustrate the carol ‘Angels from the realms of glory’

Anne has described her new hobby as “a fascinating pastime . . .  something quite new for me and really relaxing.”

Large angels produced from willow and made by Anne and friends will also feature in the Christmas Tree Festival display which will be opened on December 1st by popular television personality Pam Royle.

New clergy for the Upper Skerne

Church members throughout the parish of the Upper Skerne (which covers Bishop Middleham, Fishburn, Sedgefield and the Trimdons) are celebrating the news that they will soon have a new full-time Rector and a part-time Vicar.

A statement released at the weekend said:

We are delighted to make the following announcement:

The Revd Geoffrey Short, currently Team Vicar in the Parish of Christ the King in the Diocese of Newcastle, has been appointed as the new Team Rector of the Parish of the Upper Skerne, subject to the usual checks.

Also, that the Revd Elizabeth Bland, currently Team Vicar in the Aycliffe Team Ministry, has been appointed as Team Vicar of the Parish of the Upper Skerne. This appointment is on a 0.5 basis.

The Bishop and the Archdeacon have asked us to say that they share our delight at these appointments.

We hope that Geoff and Elizabeth will be licensed at a joint service to be held in January. The date has not yet been agreed.

Please remember Geoff and his wife, Paula, and Elizabeth and her husband, Steve, in your prayers in the weeks to come, as they prepare to embark on this new stage in their ministry.

Friends of St Edmund’s AGM

Friends of St Edmund’s will have an opportunity to hear about a year of ‘great progress and a few frustrations’ at their annual meeting in the Welcome Room at St Edmunds at 7pm on Tuesday, October 30th.  It’s also an opportunity to have a say in the election of officers and committee and to plan the social programme for the coming year.  Chairman Ron Eyley said this week: “The Friends work hard to help those whose role is to safeguard the church for future generations. We are very grateful to the many people and organisations who support us in all we do”. 

Harvest Thanksgiving at St Michael’s

On Sunday, 14th October, members of local farming families joined the regular congregation of St Michael's, Bishop Middleham, for a service of Harvest Thanksgiving. This year the church is supporting the work of the local Foodbank. Generous contributions were received and these will be taken to the Foodbank organisers. As always, the church had been splendidly decorated by Yvonne Houston and her team of helpers. The corn sheaves were donated by Mr Frank Dove.

Harvest festival will aid refugees

Refugees and asylum seekers throughout the Tees Valley area will benefit from this year’s Harvest Festival service at St Edmund’s Church in Sedgefield.

Anyone planning to attend the service at 10am on Sunday, October 14th, is asked to bring non-perishable food items which will be donated to Justice First, a small voluntary agency based in Stockton.

The celebration of harvest will be led by Lay Reader Michael King who said this week: “The service will have two focal points - celebrating what those of us in this part of the world have and thinking about those less fortunate than ourselves, especially asylum seekers and refugees in this country and around the world”.

Harvest Festival is always a popular service and is open to everyone in the community.

Further information is available from Michael on 01740 620910.

Sedgefield WI marks its century of service

The ‘war to end all wars’ was still raging in the early part of 1918 when a group of women in Sedgefield banded together to form the then village’s Women’s Institute.

In the century since those dark days, the WI has played an important and increasingly-popular role in community life.

And on October 10th, members of the Women’s Institute will celebrate the contribution they have made in and around the Sedgefield area during the past century with a special service at St Edmund’s Church they have labelled “It’s never too late to say thank-you”.

WI Joint President Audrey Flanagan explained this week: “Our aim is not only to recall the work that members have done in our community during that period but also to give thanks for the work carried out by women in their communities across the world.”

To mark their centenary, WI members have produced an eye-catching banner with a list of all their activities on one side and the names of 2018 members on the reverse.  It was made by a team headed by Kathleen Heasman.

Audrey is pictured (right) with the banner and Sedgefield WI Secretary Christine Dunn.

Guests at the service, which begins at 1.45pm, will be the Rectory Row School Choir, the Mayor of Sedgefield (Cllr Mrs Mavis Wayman), and Mrs Judith Alderson of Bishop Middleham, current Chairman of the County Durham Federation of WI.

Audrey added: “The service is open to everyone.  There will be a warm welcome for anyone who wishes to join us on this very special occasion.”

Information and Regular Events

Bookings for Baptisms

All baptisms can be booked through the Parish Administrator at the Parish Office on 01740 620274 Email . Explanatory leaflets about the system are available at the back of each Church.

Bookings for St Edmund’s Church

To book any event/service at St Edmund’s please contact Brenda Moore on 620758. This applies to every event, please don’t assume all regular annual events are in the Diary – you will need to check with Brenda.

St Catherine’s Friday Café

St Catherine’s hold an informal drop-in café on most Fridays in St Catherine’s Church Hall between 9.30 and 12.00 noon, all are welcome.

St Alban’s Luncheon Club

If anyone from the Trimdon Grange, Village or Station would like to come along to the Luncheon Club at St Alban’s , Trimdon Grange on Wednesdays please contact Irene Grint on 01429 880366. The session lasts from 10.25am – 1.25pm; a bus can pick you up & drop you back home. Also if you would like to help with this club please contact Irene

St Edmund’s Aumbry Candle

If you would like to donate towards a candle, which would burn for a week, perhaps in memory of a loved one or in Thanksgiving for a particular event, then please see Brenda Moore. The suggested donation is £5

Trimdon Bereavement Support Group

We aim to provide a supportive environment for the bereaved. We do not give advice - we do listen to you. We do not tell you what to do - we hope to help you to work it out yourself. All are welcome - of all faiths and none. Come and join us in church and we’ll have coffee (or tea!), a natter and a light hearted activity. If you have a favourite, uplifting poem, bring it along to share. We look forward to seeing you on the first Tuesday of the month from 7-8 pm. Please contact Joan Clifford on 01429 880346 for further information

One step Forward Sedgefield Bereavement Support Group 

On Thursdays from 3pm to 5 pm in the Welcome Room, there is weekly drop-in support group for anyone needing to talk about their bereavement. Trained listeners are present - we offer mutual support for those who have lost someone close to them. All welcome. Please remember the group in your prayers.  For further details, please contact Panny Pighills on 01740 620909.

Bookings for Weddings

St Edmund’s & St Catherine’s - Please call at St Edmund’s for wedding bookings on the 1st Thursday of each month from 7.30 pm, Judy Evans is available by phone on 01740 621706, e mail   .St Alban’s & St Mary Magdalene’s Please contact Mrs Doris Robson on 01429 881183 to arrange to meet in St Mary Magdalene church to make a booking. St Michael’s- please contact Mr Bill Armstrong Tel: 0191 377 3847

Bishop Middleham Bereavement Support Group

The Bishop Middleham Bereavement and Loss Meetings (BALM) take place on the first Wednesday of every month from 7 to 8.30 pm in Bishop Middleham village hall. The meetings are informal and are run on a drop-in basis, so no appointment is needed and all are welcome to come and talk to trained listeners about their bereavement or other loss.  If it will help, bring a friend or family member along for extra support and reassurance. For further information please ring Janet Deane on 01740 656391.