Founding The Chapter House

The foundation stone for the Chapter House was laid by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh on 31st May 1973.

In attendance at the laying of the foundation stone were –

  • Lord Barnard, Lord Lieutenant of County Durham,
  • The Lord Bishop of Durham, Dr. John Habgood,
  • Councillor Len Harper
  • Members of the Wearmouth 1300 Committee
  • The Reverend Graham Trasler
  • The Churchwardens: Mr. C.W. Tait and Mr. G.T. Potter.

Construction continued further until the Chapter House was subsequently opened in 1974.


As you approach The Chapter House through the corridor from the exhibition area of the church you will be able to examine a number of important artifacts found during the archeological digs and finds during construction work of the past decades.

  • A Saxon grave cover of community’s founder (in four pieces) located in glass cabinet
  • Various Saxon stone door arch, balusters, etc. in corridor glass cabinet
  • Saxon gravestones embedded in the same corridor wall

Stained Glass Window Installations

Twelve existing tall opaque windows installed in 1974 in the Chapterhouse – now Bede’s Bakehouse – presented a wonderful opportunity for new stained glass windows to support the external works and enrich the experience of parishioners and visitors. Funds were therefore also used for the design and installation of new windows and following a competitive tender process Rachel Welford and Adrian Riley were appointed.

It was particularly satisfying that Rachel, as a PhD student at the University of Sunderland, has crafted the windows within yards of the Church at the Glass and Ceramics Department of the University. As in the seventh century the latest technology has been used to achieve outstanding results.

De temporum ratione

De temporum ratione ‘The Reckoning of Time’ from one of approximately fifty surviving copies. This copy was made in the 11th or 12th century, probably in a region that is now part of France

THE DESIGN OF THE WINDOWS is inspired by Bede’s 725 treatise De temporum ratione, The Reckoning of Time. Because of its clarity and useful examples that teachers and pupils could follow, De temporum ratione became one of Bede’s most popular works. It was a core school book in western Europe for centuries. De temporum ratione deals with computus,the science of time-calculation. It demonstrated how the date of Christian holy days such as Easter could be reliably and consistently calculated. When creating De temporum ratione for his pupils at Wearmouth-Jarrow, Bede used similes to communicate abstract ideas, explaining that that Earth is shaped like a sphere, Bede said that it is ‘not circular like a shield or spread out like a wheel, but resembles a ball being equally round in all directions’ further demonstrating, as do other historical works, that the urban myth that people thought the earth was flat is incorrect.

Bede was placed in the care of the monastery at Monkwearmouth at seven years old and became one of the foremost scholars of his day producing a number of important works. Of these The Reckoning of Time holds an important place in history, not only for calculating a 1253 year Dionysian calendar – the basis of the Western calendar we use today – but also for the scientific understanding of the natural world that enabled him to make these calculations. The book contained the first use of AD and BC in a calendar, some of the earliest observations on how tidal patterns are related to the Moon, and explanations of how to calculate the Sun and Moon in the zodiac.

Bede included illustrations in The Reckoning of Time that
made it an indispensable work throughout Europe.
This illustration shows how to count up to 10,000
using your fingers.

As part of The Reckoning of Time Bede included illustrations that he clearly hoped would be useful for his pupils as well as others. One such illustration can be seen in the image on the right which showed the Roman system of counting up to 10,000 and beyond using your fingers. This work became a standard in schools throughout Europe for centuries and was seen as indispensable.

All of this was worked out from observations made around the North East of England which Bede interpreted as signs of God’s presence in the world. Likewise the imagery in the Chapter House Windows uses plants believed to have been growing in the area in Bede’s time, sea imagery acknowledging Sunderland’s coastal setting and the role it played in Bede’s scientific understanding, and a band of coloured blocks accurately cut to represent 12 hours in units of medieval time-keeping. Biblical texts moving clockwise through the seasons also feature prominently in the windows chosen by the congregation at St. Peter’s.

Bede’s Bakehouse

To increase facilities the Chapter House became a cafe eleven years ago, offering visitors the opportunity to relax in peaceful surroundings. This provides the opportunity to see the windows whilst relaxing in a peaceful atmosphere. To see more about Bede’s Bakehouse please click on this link…

Technical Excellence

OVER 200 SHEETS OF GLASS are combined in the 72 square window panels that make up the twelve windows, the majority of which were handmade by Rachel in the National Glass Centre at the University of Sunderland, just yards from St. Peter’s Church.
The techniques used include mirroring, water-jet cutting, fusing, frosting and printing to achieve the multi-layered design. This is the first time some of these contemporary glass processes have been used in an ecclesiastical setting.
The artwork for each panel combined digitally manipulated photographs specially taken for the project, computer-set typography and hand-drawn marks.

The designs required a leap of faith for the partners in the project — designs on paper and custom samples can only ever approximate the magic of glass interacting with light on a large scale. It was only when the first panels came out of the kiln that the full effect of the layers of coloured glass and mirror and the resulting reflections and shadows could be properly seen.

Installed in the chapter house these varied glass-making techniques and their changing appearance in differing light conditions, seasons and times of day result in the windows not just representing but actually embodying the passage of time.


Click on any image in the gallery below to see a full-screen version of that image depicting Autumn on your device.


Click on any image in the gallery below to see a full-screen version of that image depicting Winter on your device.


Click on any image in the gallery below to see a full-screen version of that image depicting Spring on your device.


Click on any image in the gallery below to see a full-screen version of that image depicting Summer on your device.

Sections of this text published 2018 by Sunderland City Council

Photographs by the artists and Anna Selway