The Bishop of Newcastle speaks to The Journal on his My Place.

MARTIN Wharton, 63, has been the Bishop of Newcastle since 1997.

MARTIN Wharton, 63, has been the Bishop of Newcastle since 1997. In 2003, he was given membership to the House of Lords.

Previously he was the area bishop of Kingston and the diocese of Suffolk, a canon of Bradford, a curate of Birmingham, and has headed up training departments for priests as both Bradford and Ripon colleges.

He is married to Marlene, 64, and they have three children, Joanna, Mark and Andrew, and two grandchildren Angus, one, and Ivan, three.

Where do you live?

Gosforth, Newcastle.

How long have you lived there?

We have lived here for 10 years. Bishops of Newcastle have lived in this house since 1958, but when the diocese was formed in 1882, the early bishops lived in Benwell Tower.

What’s your dream home?

An old farm house in Umbria where we have spent some lovely holidays.

How do you get around (walk, car, public transport, private jet)?

I get around the diocese, which stretches from the River Tyne to the River Tweed and across into Cumbria, by car. There are 245 churches and over 50 Church of England schools. I use the Metro to go into Newcastle and occasionally walk – but not enough. I always use the train on my trips to London.

What is your favourite part of the North-East?

The walk from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle is one of my favourites, as is Holy Island when all the visitors have gone.

What is your favourite building in the region?

There are so many. I was a student in Durham for four years, so Durham Cathedral rates very highly and there are so many wonderful churches in Northumberland and, of course, St James’s Park.

What is the best holiday you’ve ever had?

I have loved going on visits to Botswana and India. Nothing ever prepares you for your first visit to India, arriving in the middle of the night and the hair-raising drive from Delhi Airport to the city centre. Sydney, where one of our sons lives, is beautiful and in a very different kind of way, so is New York. At this time of year, I always think of the Holy Land and a visit to the Church of the Holy Nativity in Bethlehem and the place where Jesus was born.

Our best family holidays were in Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast hunting for fossils, even in the pouring rain, when our children were young.

What’s the favourite thing in your home?

My grandfather clock, because it used to belong to my grandfather until he died. It evokes all those really good memories of a happy childhood.

If you could have one luxury, what would it be?

An open-ended air ticket. Gap years had not been invented when I was growing up. In any case, I left school at 16 and went to work. One of my dreams would be to travel with and support the England Cricket Team on its overseas tours. But I would also need an unlimited amount of trees to plant to offset all the carbon emissions.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on my Christmas sermons for all the special services this week.

Who or what is the love of your life?

My wife, my children and grandchildren, they are three and one, and will be spending Christmas with us in Newcastle.

Where is your favourite place in the North-East?

Holywell in the Coquet Valley, where St Paulinus baptised the first Christians in the region, is a magical place.

What is your favourite shop?

Any second hand book shop. Barter Books in Alnwick is one of my favourites. I also love the food hall in Fenwick’s and the Grainger Market.

What is your favourite restaurant?

Hardly a restaurant, but the Karachi, a curry house in Bradford, where I lived for nine years is my favourite.

Favourite pub?

As I travel around Northumberland, I pop into lots of pubs, but none regularly enough to be a favourite.

Favourite meal?

It will have to be roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Are you any good at cooking, do you spend much time in your kitchen?

I would love to spend more time in the kitchen. At the moment, I have a fairly limited repertoire, but I am told that I do a neat Spaghetti Bolognese and a tasty turkey in white sauce with the leftovers from the Christmas dinner.

What’s the last play or film you saw?

The Barber of Seville earlier this year, which was wonderful. The last film was The Queen with Helen Mirren starring.

What book are you reading at the moment?

My 2007 Wisden.

What are you listening to on your i-pod / CD player at the moment?

I don’t have an i-pod, but of course it’s Christmas carols on the CD.

What is your favourite TV programme?

I don’t see much television, but I do watch Match of the Day (I don’t have Sky) and any cricket when I am able to.

What are you proudest of?

My children and grandchildren.

When and where were you happiest?

When I worked as a parish priest in Inner City Birmingham – two of our three children were born there.

Do you have any wisdom to share?

There is a verse from the Bible which says “look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others”. If that could become a guiding principle for all of us, the world would be a better and more peaceful place.

What does the future hold?

A number of years as Bishop of Newcastle, which is the loveliest diocese in England with the most warm-hearted people and where it is a privilege to live and serve.

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