History of St. Mary's Embroidery
The story of the Sunday School Banner
In the early 1950s Saltford village began to expand, new housing was built, people moved into Saltford, joining the congregation but not sending their children to Sunday School. Mrs. Ellen Evans (the Rector's wife), Miss Audrey Waller and my brother, Donald Reakes, taught the children who came. It was the Rector, the Rev. James Evans, who said "If only we had a Sunday School banner to let the people see we have a Sunday School", to which my brother Donald replied "I expect my sister will make one". So with help we gathered together material, which was in short supply, especially the type needed to make a Church banner, then, with the help of a child's picture book of Bible stories and a leaflet my mother obtained from the W.I., the banner was made. Then there was the frame to be constructed and my father did this. The crosses he cut from a brass door step found on a blitz site in Bath, the cross bar from a brass curtain rail, and the staff was a brush handle. He very much enjoyed making this and it is still in use.
Some 30 years later the now old and rather soiled banner was stolen, together with the Mothers Union banner. It was some time before it was found, covered in mud beyond cleaning, although an attempt was made. So a new banner was created, using the same picture, and with the help of a friend, Mrs. Gertrude Austin of Bath, it was completed and dedicated to the memory of my brother Donald and also Mrs. Jill Ransome, a young Sunday School teacher who lost her life in a road accident.
St Mary's Altar Linen and Frontals
Stephen Wells became Rector of St. Mary's, Saltford, in 1956. Shortly before his induction the ladies of the congregation had taken on the task of refurbishing the church linen. Helped by a small team of ladies skilled in fine needlework Mrs. Fitzer made up several sets of Altar Linen for use at Holy Communion, including chalice veils, purificators, palls, corporals. She also designed and made altar frontals -purple for Advent, green and blue for the period after Trinity Sunday and flame-coloured for Whitsun and the Crown of Thorns for the Lenten Array. As sacristan she put out every Saturday the linen necessary for the Holy Communion Service and laundered it afterwards.
After Stephen Wells had taken his first service, he and his wife Ruth were walking home when they were stopped by a small enthusiastic woman, Hilda Bray. She was full of a wonderful idea to bring more colour and comfort into the act of kneeling in church. Her plan was complete - wooden forms to be made to her specifications, five kneelers to each pew, cup hooks to be placed on the back of the pews, a ring to be sewn on each kneeler. They would then hang in place when not in use and would also be seen as you entered the church.
Stephen and Ruth approved the scheme and this was the first project in which Ruth was involved. She immediately offered the large kitchen at the Rectory as a meeting place for classes. All the work was carried out by Saltford ladies, under the tuition and watchful eye of Hilda Bray, and many happy hours were spent working together.
The design was taken from the Cross at the top of the staves carried by the sidesmen. Mixed thrums of wool were bought from a carpet factory and worked on jute. After the 123 kneelers were completed some of the ladies were asked to undertake cushions for the three chair seats in the chancel. These were worked on canvas using crewel wool in shades of blue and gold, with the fleur-de-lys motif, also two matching kneelers were made for weddings.
In 1972 it was suggested that kneelers be made for the choir stalls and the Rector's stool be recovered. Thrums on jute were again used but this time the fleur-de-lys was worked in the centre, with the exception of the Rector's stool which also incorporates the cross and stave design - the colours were kept to blue and gold. Queenie Fitzer, Joyce Cook and Innes Miller were responsible for the tuition and running of these classes which were held in the home of Grace Lilley, as by this time Hilda Bray had moved away from Saltford. However her advice was sought and a further 20 kneelers were completed.
Information supplied by Queenie Fitzer
Points of Interest:
All the kneelers in the body of the church are of the same design. However the way the colours have been used gives an impression of different designs.
Mrs. Bailey, who was the verger, made many kneelers and , after the embroidery had been completed by others, was responsible for making them up.
The long kneeler at the altar rail was designed and embroidered in three sections by Elsie Butler.
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