Tag Archives: Sunderland

Ancient relics of St Cuthbert to be sold at auction

A piece of the coffin of St Cuthbert which was removed from his shrine at Durham Cathedral is to be sold at auction

The fragments of coffin and robe from St Cuthbert’s shrine are mounted in a display box thought to date from the 19th Century.

On what is the feast day today of St Cuthbert, it has emerged that the item will be sold on March 27 by auctioneers Anderson & Garland in Newcastle, with an estimate of £200 to £300.

The item has come from the collection of the late Ian Curry, who was Durham Cathedral architect from 1976-1997, and who died in 2012.

He served as president of Sunderland Antiquarian Society and was a member of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne.

The shrine of St Cuthbert at Durham Cathedral was opened in 1827 by Canon James Raine, and several pieces of the coffin and cloth were removed.

In 1899, the shrine was opened again by antiquarian  Canon William Greenwell.

The pieces of the coffin were removed and the casket was partially restored in 1946 and again in 1978.

Cathedral head of marketing and events Ruth Robson said: “Canon Raine gave several pieces as gifts to friends and they do sometimes turn up.

“Perhaps Mr Curry bought this item in an antique shop.”

She said that the cathedral was considering bidding for the item. Mr Curry was born in Newcastle and lived in Sunderland.

The coffin will be among items which, it is planned, will be on display next year as part of the cathedral’s major Open Treasure project.


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“The Plan Is Working…”

“The Plan Is Working…”  from the forthcoming Frankenstein Sound Lab mini-album  Austerity.

A sort of musique concrete piece built around voice samples and featuring your friends and mine David Camoron and Iain Drunken Smith.

I’m doing the final mixing on the other 3 tracks, and they should be available for free download in the near future.


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Starlight Castle, Seaton Sluice, Northumberland

From the album Spirit Of Place  (2014).  Music generated from photographs of sites in North East England (ancient and modern), using the free i2sm programme (google it !) and mixed with ambient sound recorded  at the sites, to create a representation of the spirit of the place.

See more at the Spirit Of Place website – http://spiritofplace.weebly.com

Frankenstein Sound Lab http://maliceinsunderland.weebly.com/

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We announce the release of a new album by FRANKENSTEIN SOUND LAB.

Titled Radio Frankenstein International,  it is a collision between chance encounters ( in the form of random samples found on short wave radio) and structured music.

Free listen & download from the Malice In Sunderland website –




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Wishing Well, Cox Green


A mossy grotto alongside the south bank riverside path a little way east of Cox Green, a hamlet on the River Wear, about 5 miles out of Sunderland. Water drips from the roof and walls, forms pools on the floor.

I call it the Wishing Well because I came across reference to it by that name in someone’s memoirs of the 1930s published in the local paper. Its not otherwise refered to in any source that I’ve yet found, though maybe for others it has significance – on one visit I found a carefully constructed daisy-chain floating in the pool.

It’s really a well under threat – the roof of the grotto seems to consist entirely oif soil, held together by the roots of the trees growing on the bank above. Sooner or later the elements will conspire to bring the whole lot down, and the grotto will be gone, or at best extremely truncated.

Oh, and it works !

I presented a silver coin to the well spirit, made my wish (I wont divulge its nature) and within an hour my wish had been granted.



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Hetton Lyons to Ryhope (Avoiding Traffic)

Hetton Lyons Country Park, on the outskirts of the town of Hetton-le-Hole, rose like a green pheonix from the ashes of the mining industry – where once people worked and died (there’s a monument to those who perished in a mining disaster) there are now three lakes, woodland, wetland and acres of open space. 


I had business at the park in the morning, but free by 1 p.m. I thought rather than catch the bus back the 8 or 9 miles into the city I’d walk back, trying to avoid traffic wherever possible (I find the sound of moving traffic increasingly annoying).

I left the country park by another relic of mining days – an old mineral line, now a footpath, which once carried coal wagons.

On the hillsides, Gorse bushes are in flower. Those yellow flowers can be used to make a very nice wine, but you need a lot of them, and Gorse thorns exact payment in blood.


The footpath climbs steadily in an easterly direction.


Eventually the footpath intersects with a minor road, and I turn onto this heading north. This  single-track road is called Salter’s Lane, which suggests it may have once been part of an ancient saltway – an old trading route.

The road passes through a farmyard, and then  I’m in a landscape of wind-turbines that’d have freaked out Don Quixote.

4In some areas there is a lot of anti-wind turbine feeling, but I like them, I think they enhance, rather than spoil the landscape. If the hillside was dotted with old-style windmills, that’d be thought scenic. But what’s the difference really ? Both use the power of the wind to create power.

5A little way beyond the farm I leave the saltway and head eastwards again, along a track that leads through fields and woodland before eventually depositing me on another old railway line turned footpath just outside the village of Murton – somewhere along that track I crossed the boundry from the City of Sunderland  into County Durham.

6Murton was a pit village – small town, really –  that for centuries was a small farming community, which grew due to the Industrial Revolution and the need for coal.

Heading northwards again, a little further on I get a first glimpse of the North Sea on the eastern horizon.

7One problem with old railway lines as paths is that they’re often boringly straight. So is this one, but at least most of the way its raised up above the surrounding countryside on an embankment, giving good views to either side.

After a cold Spring, this warm May day has brought out flowers along the way, both wild and feral escapees from gardens. Here’s some Cowslips…


My only real brush with traffic along the way is when the path crosses the A19 (a motorway in all but name), and I ponder that its predecessor, the railway, is now given over to pedestrian and cycle use (as are the railway’s predecessors, the canals) – will there come a day when motorways too become footpaths ?


A sign-post along the way. It’s numbered 1, but I passed no others along the way.


Ah – now this bench is a piece of personal history.  Several years, and jobs, ago I painted this, and its sibling benches along this stretch of the path. I particularly remember this otherwise mundane job because it was a raw Winter’s day in January or February, and a cruel wind was blowing in from the North Sea, giving every impression that the last landmass it had crossed had been northern Scandinavia, and bringing with it gifts of intermittant rain and hailstones.

You might think – and I certainly did – that it wasn’t a good idea to be painting benches in the rain. The paint might not take properly, and, more to the point, people do not do a good job when being subjected to the icy blast of the elements and can no longer feel their fingers, feet and other parts.

But the boss was not a flexible man. Once he decided a job had to be done on a certain day, that was it. I guess we were just lucky it wasn’t under 3 feet of snow – he’d have had us digging them out, then painting them.

Looks like its due for a re-paint. But not by me !


And now I was approaching the end of this footpath, Ryhope – once a village, now the outer limits of Sunderland.  This last picture is looking back, southwards, along the path…


After a warm, sunny afternoon, dark clouds were piling up and the first raindrops falling as I walked the short distance to the nearest bus stop… a short distance within which two buses going my way passed me !

Luckily its a route well-served by public transport and so I only had to wait about 10 minutes before another two buses came along, one behind the other ! I caught the first one back into the city centre.

This journey was probably somewhere in the region of 8 to 10 miles. Hard to be sure, because I detour to look at things.



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Roker Park Drinking Fountain, Sunderland

Located within Roker Park, Sunderland.
Not working.


Its topped by a carving of what I take to be an Eagle – something avian, anyway.

The water flowed from the four heads of some kind of cryptid – sort of looks like a  dog/lion hybrid.

More photos and information about this fountain (and others in North East England) at this thread – http://holywells.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?id=78

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FRANKENSTEIN SOUND LAB – Barnes Park, Sunderland

Another one from the Spirit Of Place project. Barnes Park in Sunderland is our favorite local public park.

Music made from photographs of the park, using the i2sm programme, plus natural sounds recorded on location.

For more on The Spirit Of Place project, see-



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Almanac – December 10

1951 – Algernon Blackwood died. English short story writer and novelist, one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories in the history of the genre – it’s been said that his short story collection Incredible Adventures (1914) “may be the premier weird collection of this or any other century”.



1967 – Otis Redding died. American singer and songwriter, record producer  and arranger. Considered one of the major figures in soul music and rhythm and blues, and one of the greatest singers in the history of popular music, his singing style influenced other soul artists of the 1960s, and he helped to craft the powerful style of R&B that formed the basis of the Stax Sound.



1978 – Edward D. Wood, Jr. died. American screenwriter, director, producer, actor, author, and film editor. In the 1950s, Wood made a number of low-budget genre films. In the 1960s and 1970s, he made sexploitation movies and wrote over 80 pulp crime, horror, and sex novels. In 1980 he was posthumously awarded a Golden Turkey Award as Worst Director of All Time. Be that as it may, I find films like Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen Or Glenda and Bride Of The Monster far more enjoyable than many a blockbuster by “proper” film-makers (the James Bond franchise, for starters – yawn).



1993 – The last shift leaves Wearmouth Colliery in Sunderland. The closure of the 156-year-old pit marked the end of the old County Durham coalfield, which had been in operation since the Middle Ages.


2005 – Richard Pryor died. American stand-up comedian, actor, social critic, writer, and MC.



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An End To It…   is the final track on the 2007 album It Was A Dark & Stormy Night, which was based loosely around the prophecy of St Malachy,  who foretold the end of the Roman Catholic church. If he was correct, the next pope after the current one will be the last one.


This track details the fate of that last pope – beheaded, a stake driven through his heart, and buried on a dark and stormy night at a crossroads near Zagreb.


Of course this is just fiction (St Malachy didn’t specify such a grisly end) and be assured that no popes were harmed during the making of this track.


To hear other tracks from this album, or to download it free, go to:



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