The Beautiful Stitch Ely Cathedral – Thursady 21st February 2019
This small travelling exhibition organised by the Embroiderers’ Guild was a fascinating, if eclectic, collection, demonstrating what can be done with needle and thread. There were modern decorative pieces of intricate design, fine oriental costumes, tiny hand-stitched toys, beautiful detachable pockets from the 18C which could be worn under any garment, as they were simply tied on around the waist ( Lucy Locket lost hers going to the fair). More workaday garments displayed intricate smocking. The stitching gave shape to an otherwise basic amalgam of front, back and sleeves and the workmanship was superb.
The highlight for me was an example of invisible darning produced by Mary Cox aged 12. On plain cloth as for a sampler, different darns were executed showing how threads could be woven and interwoven in perfect lines of neat stitching to repair damaged garments. Its preservation reflects the quality of the work. Wouldn’t we like to know more of the girl whose name was embroidered on the piece!
Surprisingly there was very little in the way of ecclesiastical needlework. However we were entertained and intrigued by an exhibition of dresses by talented pupils studying textiles for GCSE and A level at the King’s Ely School. There were some remarkable garments, not all wearable, but certainly striking.
Blickling Hall – Wednesday 5th December
The day may have been grey and damp but a warm welcome awaited us from the young man in the vibrant Christmas suit. There was plenty of time to sample at leisure the delights of the café, browse round the shop and walk through the grounds, before going into the house.
The house was beautifully decorated for Christmas and many were fascinated, and inspired, by the amazing use of folded paper – particularly sheet music – to create fans, wreaths and angels, to name just a few of the unique decorations designed for this year. In the mellow light of the late afternoon the library was a particularly welcoming place to linger on one of the sofas and admire the decorations.
By late afternoon the light had faded and, as we came put of the house, the gardens had sprung to life with the lights which were garlanded all around, and the walls of the house were washed with floods of colour. Our final view of the house showed it colourfully lit against the dark night sky with rows of sparkling trees leading up to it. It was a wonderful, bright, light filled end to a very enjoyable seasonal visit.
The Trumpington Cross – 21st November 2018
Our secretary, Jane Woods’ close association with the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology on Downing Street in Cambridge, made it possible for a group of us to visit the museum on the 21st November 2018, to hear the Keeper of Collections, Imogen Gunn , talk about the rare Anglo-Saxon jewelled cross now known as The Trumpington Cross.
We heard that it was discovered during excavations occasioned by the housing development at Trumpington Meadow, only three miles from the museum. Four graves dating from the 7th C were found next to each other. One grave contained treasure. It was not obvious to archaeologists at first that they had found a rare piece, since the cross had lodged sideways in the vertebrae of the skeleton. Pictures reveal that it looked rather like a pound coin stuck in bone.
Although The Trumpington Cross is tiny, only 34mm in diameter, it is a work of great beauty and craftsmanship. The lustrous red of the garnets is complemented by the rich gold setting. The jewels are set in gold foil which enhances the light-reflecting quality of the garnets, thought to have come from as far away as Sri Lanka. The wearer was a Christian of high status to own such a piece.
The owner’s importance in the community is also shown in the manner of her burial. She was buried in her bed, wrapped in a blanket of wool. Many of us had heard of ship burials, such as the famous one at Sutton Hoo, but the concept of a bed burial was a new idea. Dr. Gunn regretted that archaeologists could shed no light on the reason for this custom, but 20 examples have been found.
As well as the cross, an exquisite gold pin to hold a veil in place is also on display. We could only marvel at its delicacy. A fine gold chain connects two pins, each headed by tear drop shaped garnet, again set in gold.
If you are shopping in John Lewis or walking along Downing Street, take a step off the street into the beautiful ground floor display area of The Archaeology and Anthropology Museum where you may marvel at the treasures for yourself.
Reports (and/or photos) of visits always welcomed! Please send them to the Honorary Secretary, Jane Woods at hauxwell125@gmail.