Friends of St Giles' Church, Cambridge
'Long Read'
Conservation of the St Peter's Banner
This beautiful banner has been used by the congregation of St Giles for well over a hundred years to process to St Peter’s Church on the feast day of St Peter and St Paul (June 29th). It depicts symbols of St Peter, a rock (“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”) and crossed keys.
An anonymous donor has enabled the banner to be conserved by Victoria Allan of the Museum Service in Warwick. We are very grateful to the donor and Victoria Allan.
The provenance of the banner is unknown but the embroiderer has left her signature on a blue silk ribbon attached to the lining. She is Mary Ellen Biddescombe (?) the date is 1907. Who she was and where she lived has still to be investigated.
It is quite certain that the banner was not made by professional embroiderers, there are indications that the manner in which the banner has been constructed and the embroidery carried out differ from accepted workshop practise.
The central image of a rock a sea area is embroidered in grey silk floss using long and short stitch. The conservator thinks that this is earlier than the other parts of the banner and so perhaps it was the starting point for Mary Ellen and she decided to set it within deep blue damask & create a banner.
The blue silk damask surround is undoubtedly ecclesiastical in origin as the pattern includes IHS, doves, crowns and suns amongst other symbols.
The damask has embroidered swirls of laid silk floss outlined in gold thread; unusually these have been worked directly into the damask without any supporting linen. The images below show the back of the embroidery and the tension and subsequent tear that resulted.
The key symbols of St Peter are worked in heavy gold thread and are likely to have been bought from a church supplier (as was usual at the time and indeed still is). They have been applied by the embroiderer and a couched thread of gold has been used to hide any stitching.
The cord and tassels would also have been purchased, and while one is complete, it has been decided to leave the other as it is.
In the short term the banner will go into storage. We hope, however, that we will be able to arrange some mid-term display at a Cambridge institution, if we can find suitable cases to do so. In the long-term, it is hoped, this banner, and that of the Blessed Sacrament, still in restoration, will form the focal point of the re-ordered area at the West End of St Giles’.
Thank you to all those involved, in particular, Victoria Allan, Margaret Waring and Geoff Dumbreck.
Re-Imagining St Giles'
With your support, donations and hard work we can proudly share the plans for the re-imagining of St Giles'. The booklet features the work of our architects, which you helped pay for. The plans have been approved by our Parochial Church Council (which we share with two other churches), so we can now move on to the next phase. Many thanks!
Read the Booklet
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Thank you to everyone who has recently renewed their membership.
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On Paper
Registered Charity Number 1168770 

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Patron The Revd Prof Diarmaid MacCulloch Kt, DD, FBA 
Chair Dr John F. Mueller 
Secretary Mrs Ank Riglesford 
Treasurer Dr Geoffrey Dumbreck

Our mailing address is:
Friends of St Giles' Church, Cambridge
St Giles' Church
Castle Street
Cambridge, Cam CB3 0AQ
United Kingdom

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