Welcome to Archive item of the week: where we delve into Guildford Cathedral Archives to highlight some of the unique items within the collection.
This week: The Textiles of the Cathedral. Our People’s Cathedral Archivist takes a rare look into the designs of the kneelers.
The Guildford Cathedral kneelers, you may be aware of these from attending services at the Cathedral or from coming to the Cathedral on a visit, or you may know nothing about them.
The kneelers are likely to be something that the day visitor to the Cathedral might not really notice – they are there on the back of the chairs in the nave, and indeed kneelers are something that are spotted on any visit to any parish church.
What makes the kneelers at Guildford Cathedral special?
Well, the fascinating thing about the kneelers is the very focus of our item of the week. It is the fact that within our Archives we have a unique glimpse into their design and making thanks to our collection of patterns.
Before talking more about the patterns themselves it seems apt to focus on the kneelers themselves to demonstrate just why they are so interesting and important to the Cathedral.
The kneelers design are in fact the work of Lady Prudence Maufe who was the wife of the Cathedral Architect. Lady Maufe had in the past been an outside examiner in embroidery for the board of education and so she was responsible for setting up the Guildford Cathedral Brorderers Guild in 1936. The focus of Lady Maufe’s designs was to focus on trades, professions and interests of the era, alongside religious symbolism. Although not all the designs of the kneelers were the work of Lady Maufe, she was still very much the driving force behind the designs. It is clear that a strict control was placed on design, layout and colour of the kneelers. It means that nearly every kneelers (excluding the Lady Chapel) are in fact different – one would be forgiven to think that they were all the same because of the strict control that Lady Maufe put on the design and layout.
The Archive has a unique collection of some of the original patterns and plans for the kneelers, although the collection is by no means complete they still provide a very fascinating insight into the design and workmanship that went into the finished article.