MARKS scratched in the fabric of one of Wearside’s oldest churches to fend off evil, have inspired a new exhibition.

Restorers converting 300-year-old Holy Trinity Church in Sunderland’s East End into the multi-award-winning Seventeen Nineteen event space uncovered several primitive carvings, believed to be witch marks.

And now a collection of ceramics, created by volunteer artist in residence at the venue Iona Stock and inspired by the marks, is on show in the building until 21 May.

Witch marks were commonplace from the medieval period until the early 19th century and reflect a time when belief in the supernatural was widespread and the use of magical symbols and ritual objects part of everyday life.

Like those at Holy Trinity, they were often made next to windows, doorways and fireplaces, perceived as convenient entrance points for demons, witches and evil spirits. 

They continued to be used long after the fear of witchcraft and demons had died out, as symbols of protection and good luck.

And the dozen, hand-thrown, ceramic vessels which make up the exhibition, reflect the shapes of the marks and the natural erosion within plaster, wood and stone in the church.                                                          

Stock believes these early graffiti and signs of erosion are as much a part of the church as intentional marks made by the dozens of craftsmen who worked on the building over the centuries.

“This has been absolutely incredible to work on,” she said. “The original Georgian décor would have been extremely bright and vibrant and there are elements of that peeking through.”

“Holy Trinity is a phenomenal space, full of stories and secrets,” said Lily Daniels, Participation and Engagement Officer at Seventeen Nineteen.

“And the work Iona has produced is just the same; filled with detail, character and fascinating ideas. We’re thrilled to support her work and bring her art to the East End.”

Audio tours – are available on site and digitally, along with a booklet exploring themes in the work and exploring ways in which emerging artists can engage with and respond to heritage sites.                

The exhibition marks the beginning of a three-year programme of University of Sunderland and Sunderland College student-led activities at Seventeen Nineteen.

For more information visit https://www.visitchurches.org.uk/1719/