parish of the upper skerne

Church support for Sedgefield Rangers overseas service appeal

Members of Sedgefield’s Saint Edmund’s Church are busy searching their wardrobes, linen cupboards and children’s toy-boxes to help four teenage members of the local Ranger Guide group make ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ voluntary service trips overseas.

The four have been selected for the international projects next summer by Girlguiding North East England but need to raise around£2000 each towards the cost.

Kate Wallace (left) will do voluntary work in Sri Lanka, Jenny Walker (third left) in Bermuda, and Katelyn Craig (second left) and Abbie Walker (right) will take part in an international camp.

The four have already been hard at work fund-raising and are now hoping to raise around £300 by asking church members and supporters to fill bags with unwanted used clothing, shoes, linen, bedding, towels, curtains and soft toys (excluding duvets, pillows and cushions) which will then be sold to the Bag2School charity.

Bags can be returned to Kate’s mum, Susan, at St Edmund’s Church by e-mailing her at or calling her on 07753 470350.

Mrs Wallace said this week: “The girls began fundraising late last year. So far they have hosted a coffee morning, held Christmas stalls, played Christmas carols in Sainsbury’s Supermarket, staged a fashion show with Betty’s Boudoir and done sponsored runs and a swim.  They really do deserve all the support they can get.”

Footnote: The next fundraising event by the Rangers will be a Ceilidh on April 27 in the Parish Hall. Tickets cost £12.00 and include a pie and pea supper. There will also be a bar. Tickets are available from Jaiz Hairdressers or from Marie Walker  at   

Sedgefield Graveyard Panel will aid family history research

Family research in the old churchyard at St Edmund’s, Sedgefield, will now be easier than ever before – thanks to painstaking detective work by local historians and the skills of Fishburn artist and graphic-designer Kevan Stevens.

People searching for the final resting place of their ancestors will be able to access a new information panel listing those buried in the churchyard and the location of their graves.

The detail is based on a comprehensive survey made several years ago by members of Sedgefield Local History Society and subsequent development by  a team from St Edmund’s working on Durham Diocese ‘Inspired Futures’ project which aims to make churches more accessible and user-friendly to the local community.

The information was then accurately reproduced on a large interpretation panel by Kevan, managing director of The Art Room North East Ltd, who has worked closely with the Inspired Futures team on several projects for St Edmund’s. The panel was installed in the entrance porch at St Edmund’s this week.

Churchwarden Brian Mutch, who leads the ‘Inspired Futures’ team, has described it as ‘a valuable addition to church and town records’ but admits that not all graves can be identified.  “Not surprisingly, the carved lettering on some headstones has suffered from the ravages of wind and weather over a long period and can no longer be read,” he explained.

The earliest identifiable gravestone dates back to 1709 (William Walton). Two of the most interesting are a memorial to Sergeant Frederick Hardwicke (Bolton) who fell in the Heavy Brigade’s gallant cavalry charge at Balaklava in 1854 and a skull and crossbones carving on the 1711 tomb of John Rawling  now lying flat on the grass near the church entrance.

Pictured examining the Information Panel are (l-r) Brian Mutch, Alison Hodgson and the Revd. Geoff Short.

Ushaw College visit will include musical bonus 

Parts of Ushaw College, near Durham, not normally seen by the public will be open to the Friends and supporters of St Edmund’s Church, Sedgefield, on Tuesday, June 4th.

The Friends Committee has arranged a visit and conducted tour of the college – which has been described as ‘a hidden gem of the North East’ - and will include another bonus - a short organ recital by Sedgefield’s own young organist, Jonathan Clegg, in the stunning surroundings of St Cuthbert’s Chapel.

Designed by Augustus Pugin and set in 500 acres of rolling farmland and beautiful gardens, Ushaw was a Roman Catholic seminary for over 200 years until it closed in 2011. It is now run by a charitable trust and houses some spectacular artefacts and architecture.

The cost of the visit will be £25 to include welcome refreshments, a buffet lunch, guided tour and entrance fee of £5.00 (the fee can be converted into an annual pass if requested in advance of the visit).

Party members plan to travel to Ushaw by shared transport. They will be greeted with tea and coffee before a guided tour around the college and there will also be opportunities to explore the chapels and gardens alone.

Reservations can be made by contacting Friends’ secretary Brian Mutch (01740 622302), secretary Alison Hodgson (01740 620912) or committee member Anne Eyley (01740 645854).

Triple celebration for local family

Sunday was a Red Letter day for one local family and also for the congregation at St Edmund’s Church, Sedgefield.

It saw the celebration of a triple baptism of a mother and her two children in what the Team Rector, the Revd. Geoff Short, described as ‘a very special and rare occasion’.

Mum Laura Lucas-Hartley, son Joshua and daughter Jessica were baptised by the Rector watched by husband and father Steve who was christened when he was just a few days old.

Both Laura and Steve served in the armed forces until recently and are now looking forward to civilian life.

They have worshipped regularly at St Edmund’s since moving into the area.

‘Two-in-one-day’ visit offer to local history lovers.

Lovers of local history are being offered an opportunity to hear the fascinating stories behind one of the oldest castles in the North of England and a church once ravaged by fire but now rated as among the most beautiful places of worship in the region.

Friends of St Edmund’s Church, Sedgefield, are inviting expressions of interest for a two-in-one-day visit on Thursday, May 2nd, to Brancepeth Castle and the neighbouring village church of St.Brandon’s.

The visit will include tours and talks at each venue and morning coffee, lunch and tea at the castle.

Organisers believe it will be one of their popular trips and say there is already ‘considerable interest’ even though the cost has still to be calculated.

Preliminary reservations can be made by contacting membership secretary Brian Mutch on 01740 622302, secretary Alison Hodgson on 01740 620912 or Anne Eyley on 01740 645854.

Further information and details of cost will be made available when numbers determine whether a coach will be hired or the visit made in members’ cars.

Free film showing of the manhunt that changed the course of human history

The Easter story told through the experiences of a Roman tribune charged with supervising the crucifixion of Jesus and the subsequent hunt for his body missing from the tomb will be told in a free film show in Sedgefield next Saturday (April 13). Joseph Fiennes stars as the tribune in ‘Risen’ which will be screened at 7pm in Sedgefield Parish Hall (doors open at 6.30pm). Tickets are free and are available from Tickety Boo, local churches or on the door. The film (Cert 12 – no child under allowed) is a Sedgefield Area Churches Together Community event and has been described as ‘the story of a manhunt that changed the course of history’.

Refreshments will be served after the screening.

‘Awesome’ choir performance will aid church repair.

The weekend’s Spring concert by Sage Gateshead Chamber Choir at St Edmund’s Church, Sedgefield, was summed up in a single word by one member of the audience who was attending his first ever choral evening


It was a view with which few, if any, of the 130 plus people present would disagree and there were immediate calls from several members of the audience, church members and visitors, for a return performance

The concert, which featured works by Bach, Rutter, Parry, Haydn, Whitacre, Esenvalds and Arlen, raised at least £840 to help with repairs to the church roof and internal redecoration of the north transept after two raids by lead thieves in 2017. The cost of replacing the lead with stainless steel lookalike material is estimated at around£30,000.

“We are extremely grateful to musical director Denise Stout and the choir for giving their services free of charge,” said Parish warden Brian Mutch. “It was a wonderful concert. Everyone was very complimentary.”

Church member Ron Eyley welcomed the choir and later thanked them for an ‘outstanding evening’s entertainment’. He also paid tribute to the organising team at St Edmund’s headed by Brian Mutch which included Alison Hodgson, Anne Eyley, Christine Mutch, Dorothy Ringer and Chris and Julia Rowsby.

Upper Skerne welcomes new ministry team member

A cool wind may have been blowing outside but the Revd. Eileen Tarren was given a warm welcome inside St Mary’s Magdalene’s Church, Trimdon Village, on Sunday when she was formally commissioned as an ordained member of the ministry team in the parish of the Upper Skerne. 

Eileen moved to Sedgefield on her recent ‘retirement’ as a full-time minister and has now received the Bishop’s permission to officiate in the diocese and will serve on a part-time voluntary basis in the parish of the Upper Skerne which includes the Trimdons, Fishburn, Sedgefield and Bishop Middleham.

The Revd. Geoff Short, Team Rector (third left), who formally welcomed Eileen (second left) to the parish, was assisted at Sunday’s service by the Team Vicar, the Revd  Elizabeth Bland (right) and chalice assistant Suzanne Hopper (left)

“Eileen brings with her a wealth of experience and strong pastoral gifts. She will be a most useful addition to our team,” said the Rector.

Music for the service was provided by MUSE with organist-guitarist Janet Deane. Readings were by Lesley Tate and John Burton and Intercessions were led by Alex Wainwright.

The offertory was donated to the Save the Children fund to assist with the emergency work in three southern African countries recently devastated by Cyclone Idai.

Feeling sheepish? Head for Bishop Middleham!         

Sheep of all shapes, sizes and colours will soon be flocking into the quiet village of Bishop Middleham on the outskirts of Sedgefield.

They’ll be heading to the village Post Office and then to St Michael’s Church as part of a year-long, sheep-themed project to strengthen the relationship between the church and the local community.

Villagers have been asked to knit, sew, crochet or craft in felt, wood, clay or any other material sheep of all kinds for use at a wide range of activities throughout the year.

The project was officially launched this week with a display in the window of the village Post Office which is stocking craft materials, knitting patterns, wool and examples of what can be created.

Children have already produced sheep puppets from kits and there will be sheep-making groups locally throughout the lambing season. Sheep-related themes will be used during St Michael’s Mothers’ Day service and at school assemblies. Happy Days Playgroup, Rainbows and Brownies have already offered their sheep-making skills. There will be quizzes and lamb treasure-trails in April and Autumn and sheep-craft challenges will also feature in some categories of September’s popular village Horticultural Society Show.

The project will close in December when a flock of crafted and donated sheep will accompany this year’s ‘Posada’, a 400-year-old Mexican tradition, which sees a Nativity Crib travelling around local households during Advent until a final

celebration at St Michael’s Crib Service on Christmas Eve. Each participating family will receive a sheep to keep as their own.

The Revd. Geoffrey Short, Team Rector of the Parish of the Upper Skerne has described the sheep-based campaign as a “wonderful way of bringing the church and community closer together” and has praised organisers for their hard work and vision.

‘Lunar’ the hen delights Sedgefield researchers

Five members of St Edmund’s Church, Sedgefield, set off on a fact-finding mission to Redmarshall this week and found themselves sharing a Celtic Communion service with . . . a very friendly hen!

The Revd Claire Gibbs introduced her pet, ‘Lunar’, to the congregation at the village’s St Cuthbert’s Church to reinforce her sermon theme that, like the hen, God would always protect and battle for the ones she loved.

“It was certainly an effective way of keeping the congregation’s attention,” said Brian Mutch, churchwarden and chairman of the ‘Inspired Futures’ project at St Edmund’s.

Brian and four other project members were at St Cuthbert’s to investigate possible Redmarshall links with families whose coats of arms are carved into the 14th century marble font at St Edmund’s.

“The information could be of great interest and importance for the local heritage centre we want to create in the North Transept at St Edmund’s”, said Brian.

Sedgefield Local History Society is collaborating in the ‘Inspired Futures’ project which aims to grow the church and make its facilities more readily available for use by local groups in the Sedgefield area.

The Society has amassed a substantial collection of local documents and records which could provide a great resource for visitors wanting to know more about the history of the Sedgefield area as well as those engaged in family-research.

Pictured during the visit are ( l- r): Christine Mutch, Brian Mutch, Alison Hodgson, the Rev Claire Gibbs with ‘Lunar’, Anne Eyley, and Redmarshall churchwarden Eric Smalley. Missing from the group is photographer Ron Eyley.

Mothering Sunday service invitation for Sedgefield families

Families of every child baptised in Sedgefield during the past three years are being invited to a special ‘simple’ Mothering Sunday service at St Edmund’s on March 31.

Mums of all ages will be presented with posies of daffodils (kindly provided by Sainsbury’s) during the 10am service which is widely regarded as one of the most popular celebrations in the church calendar.

The Revd. Geoffrey Short, Team Rector in the Parish of the Upper Skerne, who will lead the service, said this week: “The flowers will be distributed to those special people in our lives whom we love and cherish. They symbolise the beauty of God’s creation and His Love for each one of us.”

Families are invited to join regular worshippers at St Edmund’s for light refreshments after the service.

Sedgefield clock story on BBC Radio Tees   

The story of Sedgefield’s damaged clock on the tower of St Edmund’s Church and the efforts being made to get it repaired as quickly as possible will be aired on BBC Radio Tees this afternoon (Thursday) and on the station’s Sunday morning Religious Affairs programme. 

Churchwarden Brian Mutch was interviewed this morning by Radio Tees presenter Gary Philipson (left). Today’s story will be featured between 2pm and 4pm. On Sunday, it will be told on the Mike Hill show.

Sedgefield discovers the sound of silence

Time is standing still in Sedgefield at the moment . . .

The clock on the tower at Edmund’s Church has been silent since the weekend when part of the winding

mechanism cable snapped.

And it is not yet known when the quirky clock chimes will be heard again in the town.

(It won’t chime one-o-clock at all, sometimes it chimes fewer times than it should and on at least one occasion actually chimed 13 times).

Specialist clock repairers are expected to visit St Edmund’s at the weekend to assess the damage and estimate the cost of repairing the winding system. Some time in the future, part of the clock will need to be removed and repaired to correct the chiming fault at an estimated cost of more than £2500.

Churchwarden Brian Mutch explained this week: “Because so many people rely on the clock to keep appointments of various kinds, we are keen to get it back into good working order as soon as possible.

The clock (pictured) has served the town since 1897 when it was first installed to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  It originally took 45 minutes every week to wind but was electrified in 2003.

Tickets go on sale for ‘very best’ Sage Choir concert in Sedgefield

Tickets will be on sale this week for what promises to be an evening of the very best in choral music performed by the highly-acclaimed Sage Gateshead Chamber Choir.

It will be staged in St Edmund’s Church, Sedgefield, at 7pm 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 Whitacre, Esenvalds and Arlen.

Tickets cost £10 and include refreshments. They are available from church members Brian Mutch (01740 662302) or Anne Eyley (01740 645854) as well as on the door.

The Revd. Geoff Short, Team Rector of the Parish of the Upper Skerne, said this week: “The acoustics in St Edmund’s are perfect for a concert of choral music. It promises to be a really wonderful evening.”

Repair work on the roof is expected to start in early Spring.

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.

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.