Friday, October 27, 2006

Wonderous Winchester 

One of the highlights of our 2007 London With Linn and Libby tour was a visit to Winchester.

A special extra was a chance to see my friend Jane Bennett who blogs at The Knally. She met our group at the train platform and pointed us to needlework shops (complete with maps), recommended a great lunch buffet where we caught up on news and then visited the Cathedral with us.

At the Cathedral we had a splendid tour by two dedicated volunteers who don't stitch but nonetheless tried to find an answer to our every question and put up with all our "ohs and ahs" over the Louisa Pesel embroideries.

Upon our request, the Virgirs rummaged all of their obscure cupboards and found the Pesel funeral pall which has only been used once. However that use was not for her funeral according to the cathedral records, but for a local dignitary. Most of the embroideries held by the Cathedral are 19th century with the exception of a bit identified as Spanish which is thought possible to have been used for the wedding of Queen Mary and Phillip of Spain. This applique with embroidery is certainly in the style of Italian modelbuchen of that era.

A photo of the embroidery and many of the other textiles can be found in the newly published booklet Stitched and Woven, The Embroideries of Winchester Cathedral ISBN 903346 36 2. We certainly created a flurry as we bought out every copy available in the Cathedral shop. We were told they were wondering whether to order more copies printed but now had an answer.

The Pesel kneelers are magnificent - not only in diversity of design but in sheer numbers. One of the interesting sets is a group embroidered by schoolgirls evacuated to Winchester during WWII. Ms Pesel produced the designs based on the Cathedral's many medieval tiles. What looks like overdyed background stitching was produced by changing colors every twenty stitches.

The newest set of cushions have been stitched by the Channel Islands parishes which are included in the Winchester Diocese.

One cannot escape the medieval feeling of the Cathedral because of the medieval tiles there. Many original tiles have been placed on the floor and it is indescribable to walk on them. Other parts of the flooring has been set with reproduction tiles in great swaths so you can understand how these decorative tiles looked when new.

A wonderful day out. As one group member said: "Jane Austen, Louisa Pesel and medieval tiles what more could you want?"

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