Thursday, 29 December 2011

St Christopher's Church and the unidentified Woven Hanging

St. Christopher's Church has a beautiful large piece of weaving for which they did not have specific details as to the origin.  The extremely helpful and friendly ladies of the church showed it to me.  They kindly laid a part of it out over the church chairs which are six chairs wide in each aisle.  This is a large and very heavy piece of weaving.  It was probably hung on one side of the altar, and so there may have been two of these hangings but now the church has only one.

Woven hanging, St Christopher's Church, Haslemere

All of the church's furnishing are handmade and numerous items were made locally; this suggests that this piece was made in Haslemere.  Whilst the hanging is not recognizably Peasant Arts, the grape and vine motif was popular with the movement and so therefore it seemed plausible that this was made by the Haslemere Weaving Industry on Kings Road.   The birds hiding in the corn seemed to be out -of-character however.
Detail of woven hanging, St Christopher's Church,
Having then found the publication Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture (Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C.,  Technical Journals Ltd., London, c.1910) where Charles Spooner (the architect of St Christopher's) states "Another interesting feature of the interior is the curtain dividing the choir stalls...It is a very fine piece of colour, and was woven at Haslemere", this would seem to support the view that the hanging above was made in Haslemere.  Therefore making it either a product of the St Edmundsubry weavers, whom did not appear to produce such primitive styles, or be produced by the Haslemere Weaving Industry, one of the Peasant Arts industries.  However this was before I had found the article quoted in my previous post (Art Journal, February 1911), whereby it can be identified that the curtain being referred to is Luther Hooper's wool curtain.
Detail of woven hanging, St Christopher's Church,

By chance my recent discovering of the Art Journal  online at British Periodicals conclusively solved the mystery.  This is not a Peasant Arts woven hanging.  Reading R.E.D. Sketchley's article 'Haslemere Arts and Crafts' (Art Journal, November 1906) I saw this hanging illustrated!  It is titled as "Vineyard Poplin, designed by Edmund Hunter, woven at the St Edmundsbury Weaving Works" (ibid).  
Vineyard Poplin, designed by Edmund Hunter
from Art Journal, November 1906
As Sketchley reports "The weaving works of Mr. Luther Hooper and M. Edmund Hunter are not peasant-industries.  They demand in the work a higher executive skill than is necessary for the (latter)...In place of the primitive treadle-looms a Jacquard hand-loom is used...The St. Edmundsbury works had their beginning in Mr Hunter's experience as a designer for manufacture, a pattern-maker for materials and processes whose possibility is only theoretically apprehended...It had final issue in the starting of weaving works at Haslemere, with skilled weavers from Spitalfields to carry out their traditional craft, under the direct supervision of the designer....In the church textiles which are an important part of his industry, as in the more ornate designs for brocade, Mr Hunter's use of animal forms among the emblematic flowers points to inspiration from the great textiles of mediaeval Sicily, the wonderful webs whose romantic fantasy captures the sense of all those who respond to imagination in art.  But when he uses traditional forms, conventional or symbolic, the designer regards them for the purpose of the present, and in that spirit has produced in twentieth-century Haslemere some works of rare and quick beauty."

To have re-discovered the designer of this hanging, and that it was not the designer whom was expected feels quite remarkable.


  1. How satisfying to have gotten to the bottom of the story behind this important woven piece - which I think is an absolute delight on the eye. Interesting to read that the - originally Huguenot - weavers of Spitalfields were involved in its manufacture.

  2. Remarkable indeed-your continuing research and unravelling of the mysteries are intriguing. Interesting also as we share Huguenot ancestors

  3. Thanks! The hanging is so big and as you can see from the pictures, being to disintegrate, that the church don't know what to do with it. It is hidden away.

    I know nothing of the Huguenot weavers at Spitalfields, thanks for the tip.


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