Pilgrimages – Exploring landscapes at the Quaker Tapestry Museum
Our museum, one of the smallest in Cumbria, has a collection of 77 modern embroideries with 40 on display at any one time. Each embroidered panel tells stories of people across the centuries who made history with their deeds of discovery and daring.
In this blog we take a closer look at our Quaker Pilgrimages panel, which features a familiar landscape – the old county of Westmorland.
The Pilgrimages panel, and others, tell the story of why Quakerism took off in the North West of England. It’s a joyous panel.
George Fox founder of the Quakers stands on Pendle Hill, with his black hat, imagining a large gathering of people in 1652. George regularly rode his horse over the treacherous quick sands of Morecambe Bay on the way to or from Swarthmoor Hall in Ulverston. These days the crossing is allowed only under supervision of the official Duchy of Lancaster guide.
The Tercentenary commemorations took place in 1924, the anniversary of the birth of George Fox. The commemorations saw a revival of interest in the area and Quakers from all over the world began to make ‘pilgrimages’.
• Swarthmoor Hall and the Meeting Houses of Brigflatts
• Preston Patrick
• Kendal (including seeing the Quaker Tapestry)
• Many other old Meeting Houses
• Firbank Fell
At the bottom of the panel, young Quakers staying in the Old School at Yealand Conyers, near Lancaster enjoy the ‘Fox Trot’. Some are gathered round a large chair where the small figure of Elfrida Vipont Foulds is seated.
Elfrida lived for many years at Yealand Conyers, running a school there, writing books (many for children) and articles. Elfrida was a wonderful storyteller and never missed a schools’ pilgrimage, when she would relate these Quaker stories. Here we see one lad soaking his feet after a day on the fells. Others are cooking, some are already in their sleeping bags.
Colouring our Westmorland landscape
The embroidery shows the adaptability of the five stitches used. The whole panel is one of exuberance, with colour adding to this feeling.
The Production committee gave each group of embroiderers about 40 colours. One of the main considerations had to be the date of the proposed panel.
Before the introduction of modern dyes in the middle of the 19th century, clothing would be dyed with natural dyes. In the main, you would see browny yellows, sludgy greens, greys, and browns. With the occasional red or purple in the clothing of the more well to do.
After the 1850’s there was an explosion of colours, so in this present-day panel, the 40 wools could contain bright yellows, oranges, purples and blues.
Enjoy the Quaker Tapestry panels at home
This story features in our 2021 Quaker Tapestry Calendar (the back page of August). The tear-off postcard at the bottom of the diary page shows the full panel. There are still a few 2021 Calendars available via our website shop.
Quaker Tapestry facts
These colourful tapestry panels measure 63.5cms x 53.3cms. Made using a mix of five ancient embroidery stiches and we invented a new one for the project. Our ‘Quaker Stitch’ is now known and used by embroiderers around the world.
World traveller and writer Alexander McCall Smith, says they’re one of the ‘six best tapestries’ to see in the world.
The panels help you find out about famous scientists, engineers, bankers, botanists and non-conformists who pioneered industrial welfare, fair trade, prison reform, peace work and anti-slavery initiatives. Many were Cumbrians.
Begun in 1981 and completed in 1996, they’re the work of 4,000 men, women and children from around the world. Some of the panels made journeys of thousands of miles as they passed from one group of people to another.