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History to be star of the show at bishop enthronement

PUBLISHED: 11:59 07 November 2019

Embroidery details on the Birkbeck cope which will be worn by the new Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham Usher. Picture: Norwich Cathedral/Bill Smith

Embroidery details on the Birkbeck cope which will be worn by the new Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham Usher. Picture: Norwich Cathedral/Bill Smith

Norwich Cathedral © 2019

It has been present at key historical ceremonial events and worn by dozens of religious leaders.

The morse which fastens the historic Birkbeck cope worn by the Bishop of Norwich. Photograph Norwich Cathedral/Bill SmithThe morse which fastens the historic Birkbeck cope worn by the Bishop of Norwich. Photograph Norwich Cathedral/Bill Smith

The new Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham Usher, will wear a cope, mitre and morse, made in 1902 for his welcome service and enthronement at Norwich Cathedral on Saturday.

He will be made the 72nd Bishop of Norwich in front of 1,800 people.

Embroidery details on the Birkbeck cope which will be worn by the new Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham Usher. Picture: Norwich Cathedral/Bill SmithEmbroidery details on the Birkbeck cope which will be worn by the new Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham Usher. Picture: Norwich Cathedral/Bill Smith

The cope, mitre and morse - a cloak, headdress and clasp - were worn by Bishop Sheepshanks of Norwich at the coronation of King Edward VII in the year they were made.

Fourteen years later, in 1916, they were gifted to Norwich Cathedral by William John Birkbeck of Stratton Strawless, and over the last century they have been worn by the successive Bishops of Norwich at many key ceremonial events and processions.

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It is kept in top condition by a team of expert needlework volunteers from the Cathedral's Broderers' Guild.

Bishop Graham said: "I am enormously grateful for the sensitive way that the Broderers' Guild, so ably led by Helen Jenkins, have altered the historic Birkbeck cope and mitre. There were some technical challenges, given that I am taller and bigger-headed than my predecessor.

"Wearing these beautiful embroidered vestments, as I will do in Norwich Cathedral, will always remind me that I am simply today's caretaker of a rich line of inheritance. However, whatever I wear, I'm first and foremost clothed in Christ who daily leads me forward to share his Gospel of Good News."

The cope, known as the Birkbeck cope, mitre and morse were designed by Sir Ninian Comper, who was said to be one of the best of the great Gothic Revival architects in the 19th and 20th century and noted for his work with many churches including Westminster Abbey in London and Wymondham Abbey.

The cope and mitre were made by the Society of the Sisters of Bethany, Clerkenwell, London, and they are made from Russian cloth of gold interwoven with green and rose coloured silks.

Helen Jenkins, who leads the volunteers of the Broderers' Guild, said: "It's a great privilege to be responsible for the care of these precious textiles and to see them play a key part in big ceremonies like the enthronement."

*See Saturday's EDP for an interview with the new bishop.

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