The impetus for this work sprang from a wish to commemorate the visit of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the north of England for a millennium celebration.
Enquiries showed that I was not the only one to have had this idea, so I thought of an alternative way to use it, that of doing some work for the Escomb Saxon Church that was from the same era, in something of the style of the Gospel illustrations.
Escomb is a small village on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland in South Durham. The Saxon Church is at its heart, is of considerable antiquarian interest, having ancient brickwork and artefacts on site.
I approached Michael Dent, the vicar, asking if he would like a book cover or similar and he said “Why not a door curtain?” The church has a small door on its north side that was unused except at Christenings when it was opened to let the bad spirits out. I went ahead from that point, preparing some designs to be used as a starting point.
If the curtain was to reflect aspects of the village since Saxon times I hoped to get advice from those who lived there, maybe suggestions for its content and possibly even to include stitchers in its construction. At the end of my hopes was the possibility of including the future generations through the children of the parish.
I attended a Parish Council meeting to introduce the idea and received a guarded interest that was followed up by further meetings where the hoped for suggestions were made, and eventually a group of consultants and stitchers became involved. Their enthusiasm and advice have been essential to the project.
A similar meeting with children at the school, after a helpful meeting with Mr. Taylor the Headmaster, produced ideas about how the children saw the village, sketches that they made became part of several units and three girls volunteered to stitch units.
Members of the Durham City Embroiderers Guild also undertook to sew some units, as did friends who were interested to support the project.
I approached the Wear Valley Arts department who were kind enough to help too, through Mari MacDonald, and Northern Arts, through Cinzia Hardy, who had initially been approached that the work be undertaken under the banner of the Year of the Artist (YOTA) so it could be included in its listings.
To date, eight units are stitched, 17 underway and 2 are still being researched. Overall indications are that it will be an attractive work when complete.
Ann Clare 3.4.00
(It became known as the Escomb Church Textile from a reluctance to call it the Escomb Church Hanging.)