Profiles from Prayer Pillows

Throughout the kneeler collection runs a number of themes, both of the sacred and of the secular variety. Amongst the religious iconography, institutional associations, references to places and military crests are a handful displaying unique imagery devoted to some notable individuals. On this note I thought I’d spare the geography lecturing for today and move onto a bit of history; covering three major figures that are portrayed upon the Cathedral’s textiles.

Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby (1443-1509)

Portrait of Lady Margaret Beaufort, held in the National Portrait Gallery. Artist Unknown.

Courted at 9, married at 12, widowed by 13 and a mother by 14; Lady Margaret Beaufort, the daughter of Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe and John Beaufort the 1st Duke of Somerset became the influential matriarch of the House of Tudor as she founded the legacy of her son, King Henry VII. Described as the “master of political intrigue”  (Jones, 1985), she was known for her piety and pragmatism; having left a deep impression on her age. Down the road from the Cathedral at the Manor of Woking was where her Lady spent most of her life following its obtainment by her second husband Sir Henry Stafford by royal grant in 1466. In 1503, Henry VII took the manor from his mother and began the process of converting the manor house into the palace as it is known today; now a ruin following its abandonment by Sir Edward Zouch in 1620 as he built himself a new manor house at Hoe Bridge Place.

She was bounteous and lyberal to every Person of her Knowledge or acquaintance.” – John Fisher, Lady Margaret Beaufort’s chaplain and confessor; said at her funeral in 1509.

Lady Margaret’s legacy did not remain within the confines of the Tudor age. She founded the prestigious Christ’s College as well as Lady Margaret’s Professorship of Divinity – both at the University of Cambridge. Named after her in 1878, Lady Margaret Hall of the University of Oxford became the first women’s college. Both the local Beaufort Primary School in Woking and the notable London-based Lady Margaret School have also been named in her honour. Despite her prominent place within the history of England, there is a sense of connection between the local area of Surrey to the royal with the Woking Coat of Arms having the fleur-de-lis of the Beaufort family.

Guildford Cathedral’s kneeler depicting Lady Margaret Beaufort. Initials: N.A.C. Dated: 1965. (Photo credit: Rhiannon Black Photography).

Commander of the Royal Navy, Basil John Douglas Guy (1882-1956)

Left: Cadet Midshipman Guy c.1897. Right: Midshipman Guy, VC, RN aged 18. (Source:

Nautical references are regular among the kneelers with a handful depicting the naval crown. Amid those commemorating the likes of HMS Hood and HMS Penelope is one kneeler embroidered in memory of Commander Basil John Douglas Guy who was buried in St Michael’s and All Angels Churchyard, Pirbright, Surrey in 1956. Guy, as a Midshipman on HMS Barfleur, obtained the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the 1899-1901 Boxer Rebellion at the attack on Tientsin, China, 1900. During the battle, his Naval Brigade was caught in heavy crossfire during which the Able Seaman T. McCarthy was injured. Seeing the man’s plight, Guy ran to his aid and bandaging his wounds but the young man of only 18 was unable to carrying him to shelter. Meanwhile, the remainder of the force had forged ahead finding cover, rendering the two men the centre of enemy fire. After running back for help, he returned with the stretcher bearers to bring the injured McCarthy to safety but unfortunately the Able Seaman did not survive. For such an act of bravery, he was presented with the Victoria Cross by King Edward VII on 8th March 1902. After returning from China, he served on HMS Hannibal in the Channel Fleet. Guy served in both the World Wars, obtaining the rank of commander of the Q ship HMS Wongella and achieving the Distinguished Service Order medal.

Guildford Cathedral’s kneeler depicting a naval crown. The borders are embroidered ‘Deo Gratias / 1882-1956 / B.J.D. Guy VC. DSO. RN.’ It is believed to be done by a relative, possibly a Miss Guy from Ashford, Kent. Initials: A.D.G. Date: 1962. (Photo credit: Rhiannon Black Photography).

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Winston Churchill_1
Winston Churchill. (Source: Ninety Nine Gifts).


Probably the most well-known of the three, Winston Churchill has become a figurehead of our country; soon to have his face branded upon the £5 note. The man that rallied a nation behind a speech about a beach and who is excessively quoted in modern history and politics. But would you expect any less from a man who said himself that “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it”?


‘House and Garden at Hoe Farm’ – Oil Painting by Winston Churchill (Source: Museum Syndicate).

Despite being famous for his pivotal role in leading Britain to victory in the Second World War, Churchill’s political career began in 1900 when he was first elected to Parliament. However, on the eve of the First World War, Churchill was made First Lord of the Admiralty and in 1916, led the attack on Dardanelles in North West Turkey. The campaign was a disaster and Churchill was forced to resign; believing that his whole career was finished. Consequentially, Churchill became deeply depressed and his wife, Clementine Hozier whom he married in 1908 worried for his life. As a weekend retreat for the family, Winston and his brother Jack leased Hoe Farm in Hascombe near Godalming where he discovered the cure of oil painting. It became his way of finding complete mental and physical relaxation away from the unfathomable stress of his job. The local area consequentially became a place that Winston grew a deep attachment with. Four of his paintings of the farm still remain.

Guildford Cathedral’s kneeler depicting the crest of Winston Churchill. Initials: M.L.L. Date: 1967. (Photo credit: Rhiannon Black Photography).

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