On a gloriously sunny Spring Day, some 44 Broderers and guests gathered at Winchester Cathedral Refectory at a relatively civilised hour (albeit that it was less so for those who had to travel the longer distances) for a day’s visit organised by the Master and Lady Bellamy. Once suitably fortified by tea, coffee and bacon rolls the party moved (together with said bacon rolls in the case of those Liverymen whose arrival had been delayed by the need to use the M25 to get to Winchester) to the Cathedral to be formally welcomed by the Dean, The Very Reverend Catherine Ogle.
With formalities concluded, the party was divided into groups for an extended, and bespoke (‘stitched and woven’), tour of the Cathedral and, most pertinently, its textiles – all conducted by the hugely knowledgeable and professional (yet amateur) volunteer Guides. For a fascinating couple of hours, we were given a privileged insight to many aspects of the ancient building and its textiles. With so many side chapels, and it being Eastertide, the range of altar cloths was stunning and the stories behind the production of many of the cushions and kneelers (e.g. evacuated school children being given ‘something meaningful’ to do) revealing.
Some Stunning Altar Frontals
Unlike most, we were also admitted to the Feretory and given access to view vestments, ancient and modern.
Vestments – Ancient and Modern
Unfortunately, due to the small size of their workshop, we were not able to join the Winchester Cathedral Broderers at work, but they very kindly put on, and attended, a stunning display of some their work exclusively for us. I am not qualified to comment on the quality of their work but can report that some of our more distinguished embroiderers were impressed.
The Master in contemplation
A short stroll through the Close then took us to Winchester College where we were met by the Headmaster, Dr Tim Hands. One got the distinct impression that he did not greet every visiting party – even if organised by parents of an Old Wykhamist – but wanted to see us because he and Liveryman The Revd Canon Anthony Phillips have a shared past. Sadly, time did not allow much amplification and so we did not get too much of insight into Anthony’s background; perhaps it is just as well? For an hour we were then treated to a detailed tour of this ancient school and witnessed just how well it merges its ancient and modern.
Of especial interest to our group were the various pieces of medieval tapestry and (very large) fragments of the hanging tapestries created for the christening of Prince Arthur Tudor in 1486. Amongst other admiring comments, Liveryman Diana Springall and Court Assistant Liz Elvin were overheard discussing the needlework of the undated tapestry in such detail that went straight over your Clerk’s head, but which might have helped to date the pieces far more accurately than the school archivist has yet to achieve. I am certain, too, that everyone experienced a degree of flashback when entering the New Hall to view two of the tapestries to find the room set out for the exam season: row on row of individual desks (it has to be reported that a couple of our more senior Liverymen were a trifle perplexed over the absence of inkpots and quills).
A brisk march across the City took those visitors not travelling by car to their waiting minibus, which conveyed them to Twyford and the Bellamy’s home. There we were entertained to a delicious and most generous lunch in a wonderful marquee on the lawn, set in a stunning location on the banks of the River Itchen, which had the fishermen present more than a little green with envy.
On display in pride of place was also the Company’s new Supplemental Charter recently collected by the Master, in all its wonderful splendour.
All too quickly, the witching hour arrived for those returning to London and points north by train, but for those with the time the opportunity was available to tour the gardens and appreciate the amazing plants and setting; a wonderful finale to a thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating day made possible by the generosity and hospitality of the Bellamys.