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Chances are most altar guild members have heard of the late Beryl Dean (1911-2001) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/beryl-dean-729136.html who was the last word in contemporary design in embroidery and vestment-making in the 1950’s-80’s and whose many books on ecclesiastical embroidery line book shelves around the world. Her work reflected the times, and was fresh and innovative, if not just a bit difficult to follow if you were at home alone trying to follow her directions and diagrams!

bettyBut it is the late Elizabeth ” Betty” Hoare 1915-2001 whose praise I loudly sing,  for her exceptional effort  in rescuing amazing embroidery and church textiles from pre-1840, Victorian, and Edwardian periods from sacristies all around England.  Thanks to Betty, examples of remarkable work can now be seen at the Liverpool Cathedral Embroidery Gallery http://www.liverpoolcathedral.org.uk/content/Visiting/EmbroideryGallery.aspx

betty3I often refer to her company, Watts and Co. of Tufton Street (in the shadow of Westminster Abbey, London) as one of the “Three Sacred W’s”- Wippel, Wareham and Watts!!  The Warham Guild, alas is no more- but all three companies produced some of the best quality vestments anywhere, and Watts and Wippell are happily still on the job!  In fact, both London stores are cheek and jowl side by side on Tufton Street today in London and a must-see stop if you ever find yourself near Big Ben, St. Margaret’s or Westminster Abbey.

A wonderful trade paperback book on the Liverpool Cathedral collection is also available with many colored photos which are simply breath-taking.

betty2For many years Betty trudged in all weathers across the United Kingdom, rescuing piles of magnificent but unwanted ecclesiastical textiles at a time when these things had fallen out of favor.  Many churches literally threw piles of things into Betty’s arms just to make room for the NEW stuff.  Imagine THAT!  Liverpool Cathedral, recognizing the importance of what Betty had saved, offered gallery space to display some of her treasures.  Beautiful fragments and motifs were photographed to make Christmas and greeting cards which you can purchase on the Cathedral website (I had to buy an extra suitcase to stuff full of them on my last trip to Watts).

We owe so much to these women, and also to the many devoted conservationists of historical textiles, many who remain nameless and behind the scenes, as well as convent nuns who produced remarkable work for the altar in centuries past.  But one name all altar guild workers can give thanks for and remember- Betty Hoare.  Bless you Betty- for all you have done for us now and future generations!