Wirral South Deanery churches weave a rich tapestry of history

Banner girls at Backford

Banner girls at Backford - Credit: Archant

Churches in south Wirral came together to create a banner they hope will be seen for centuries to come

Banner girls (and boys) at Backford (L-R): Bill Smith, Marjorie Cooper, Basil Keys, , Jacqueline

Banner girls (and boys) at Backford (L-R): Bill Smith, Marjorie Cooper, Basil Keys, , Jacqueline Alley, Dr. Elly Macbeath, Revd. Stephen Southgate (vicar of St Oswalds), Joan Norman, Audrey Roscoe, Elizabeth Joyce and Wendy Hussey - Credit: Archant

The lesson of the Bayeux Tapestry is that if you want to leave your mark on history, you can’t beat a bit of needlework.

When Wirral South Deanery sought a project to foster friendship and fellowship between its 13 churches, the idea was hatched for a banner which may just last as long as Bayeux’s famous bit of cloth.

‘Banners are associated with churches, and it meant that the 13 churches could each contribute something to the project,’ says Dr Elly Macbeath, who came up with the idea and masterminded its creation with the help of Liverpool textile artist Norma Heron. ‘Each parish was asked to design a nine-inch square to encapsulate the history and character of their parish or church.’

That amounted to three years of painstaking work, thinking up those ideas and then executing the designs in long-lasting canvas and wool.

The panel contributed by Elly’s church, All Saints, Thornton Hough, shows the unusual fifth clock face, added to the tower by wealthy merchant Joseph Hirst when he realised that the church roof obstructed the view of the north-facing dial from his home. The All Saints panel also shows two hands, a symbol of its ecumenical partnership with St George’s United Reformed Church.

Wirral south deanery includes both urban and rural parishes, and ancient and modern churches. That was reflected in the panels created for the banner. St Thomas and All Saints, Ellesmere Port, for instance, chose a starburst design representing the windows over the altar in their modern church.

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St Michael’s Church, Shotwick, was able to draw on centuries of history for its contribution to the banner. The church tower dates back to 1500, and a Norman church preceded it, mentioned in the Domesday Book.

‘In the church porch, you can see marks where bowmen sharpened their arrow heads,’ says Elly, who lives in Raby Mere. ‘There’s a field next to the church and, on a Sunday, archery was the only sport which could take place in the village.

‘It is said those archers fought at Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415).’

The new banner now becomes a church artefact which could itself pass into history. Blessed by Bishop of Chester the Right Rev Dr Peter Forster at its first resting place, St Oswald’s Church, Backford, the banner will move from church to church in Wirral South deanery.

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