ONE of the region's most senior churchmen, Dean of Durham, the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, is to retire later this year.

The 64-year-old, who has been in his post at Durham Cathedral since 2003, announced he plans to step down in September.

He made the announcement today, (SUN) but said he still has a lot to do in the next six months, before he moves to Haydon Bridge, Northumberland, with his wife, Jenny.

Mr Sadgrove said: “I am not ready to become a part of history just yet.”

Born in London, Mr Sadgrove left the capital to study maths at Oxford, before taking a second degree in theology at Balliol College.

Mr Sadgrove and his wife, a psychotherapist from Wearside, got engaged on the day Sunderland won the FA Cup Final in 1973

He said: “We chose that day because if Sunderland won Jenny’s father would agree to anything and if they lost he would be past caring.”

He was ordained in 1975, two years after graduating, and worked in Oxford doing research before lecturing trainee priests in Old Testament studies in Salisbury for six years.

The family moved to Alnwick in 1982 where he was vicar for five years before they moved to Coventry Cathedral for eight years.

He spent a further eight years as Dean of Sheffield Cathedral before arriving at Durham in 2003.

Mr Sadgrove said: “It will be a wrench to leave this place. One of the things I have loved most about being here is the way in which people across the North-East look to Durham Cathedral as an emblem of the region.

“I have come to love North-East England and feel as though I really belong here.

“Durham has given me a real feel for this part of the world and there is this magnificent cathedral. To live and work in a place like this is a huge privilege.”

Mr Sadgrove, who has three daughters, a son, and a grandson, plans to spend more time with his family as well pursing some of his own interests such as writing, travel and photography.

Bishop of Durham Paul Butler said: "Michael Sadgrove has been a wonderful Dean of Durham Cathedral.

“He has led the cathedral as a man of prayer and worship.

“He has represented the cathedral in the wider community with grace, wisdom and clarity. His real and best legacy is in people's lives changed by God's love."