Visit England seal of approval for historic church
A Wearside church celebrated this week after receiving an accolade from Visit England.
St Michael and All Angels Church, in Houghton le Spring, near Durham, received the coveted Red Rose in the Places of Interest Quality Assurance scheme.
The award is given to places that offer a quality visitor experience. It takes into consideration several factors, like how long visitors stay, accessibility, and the information available to visitors.
At St Michael and All Angels Church, the visitor experience was enhanced by a remarkable series of discoveries made during work to reorder the 12th century, Grade I listed building.
The finds, discovered in 2008, suggest that the site may have been used for worship as far back as Neolithic times 4,000 years ago.
Visitors can find out more in a heritage centre within the building.
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St Michael and All Angels is supported by a team of 30 volunteers who give a warm welcome to visitors and guided tours of the building.
The Right Reverend Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow, said: "This is a wonderful recognition for the volunteers who come here faithfully week in and week in out to welcome the people who come to this very significant part of our North East Christian heritage.
"What the award is saying is that the quality of the welcome and the quality of the experience that people will have when they come is equivalent to some of our finest and most important tourist attractions."
Sunderland Mayor Councillor Iain Kay said: "I think it's quite a tremendous story. It is a badge of honour for Sunderland that a church like this has received such a prestigious award."