Textile trail will be a walk through history

I am looking forward to the Textile Trail which has been arranged for this coming weekend in Norwich. The Costume and Textile Association has planned this event in association with Norfolk Museums, to highlight and celebrate the textile trade's rich history, and the central role it played in the wealth and development of the city of Norwich.

I am looking forward to the Textile Trail which has been arranged for this coming weekend in Norwich. The Costume and Textile Association has planned this event in association with Norfolk Museums, to highlight and celebrate the textile trade's rich history, and the central role it played in the wealth and development of the city of Norwich.

And not only, of course, the city, but the whole of East Anglia. Many of our most magnificent village churches - the 'wool churches' - were built with the wealth and profits generated by wool and textiles.

Lavenham, Long Melford, Clare; Salle, Cawston, Worstead - we owe the exuberant extravagance of these and countless other inspiring places of worship to the wool trade.

Norwich shawls, the guilds of weavers and spinners, the influence of the Strangers (who fled to Norwich to escape religious persecution), the great demand for Norwich-made textiles throughout Europe - all these matters will be illustrated, demonstrated and explained, in what promises to be a general atmosphere of carnival.

The event is a self-guided walking trail embracing a dozen or so venues, seven of which comprise a choice selection of our Norwich churches.

The temptation to combine a little church-crawling with an imaginative celebration of the richest strand in our secular heritage will prove, for many, irresistible.

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City are playing away, and Monday is a bank holiday: so, on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, 'Walk with the Warp'!

It would be wrong to spoil the fun and describe the full itinerary. All will be revealed on the day! But we shall begin in church. Maps and details of the walk will be available at the church of St Peter Hungate, (the old name for Princes Street).

I like the way St Peter's crowns the top of Elm Hill - though, sadly, Noel Spencer's description no longer applies: "a well kept, well warmed, and very exciting museum of church art".

It was put to that use in 1936, and I was first taken to see it on a school visit. I was very disappointed when it had to close.

But it is an apt venue at which to open the trail, for the two-storeyed porch through which we shall enter was built (paid for!) by Nicholas Ingham, a mercer (or dealer in textiles), who was buried in it in 1497. Remember him.

For me, it is also the ideal place because, ironically, the exhibit I remember most vividly, when the church was a museum, is the St James' cope - a wonderful pre-Reformation vestment worn by the parish priest of St James' (by the Barrack Street roundabout) at all the great festivals.

It was made of red velvet, with embroidery in coloured silks and gold and silver thread. Among the embroidery motifs were double-headed eagles, fleurs-de-lis, and seraphim standing on wheels.

In the centre of the back had once been embroidered a picture of the Virgin Mary ascending into heaven, but the figure of the Virgin and the faces of the seraphim had been unpicked, following the Reformation, to comply with orders condemning 'superstitious images'.

However did such a poor little parish come to possess such a treasure? My guess is that, somehow, it came from the Whitefriars Priory next door, (between the church and the river; only fragments remain).

The Whitefriars recognised the Mayor and City Council as their patrons, their church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, their annual Foundation Day was celebrated on the Assumption (ascension) of the BVM (last Wednesday!), and the priory was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539.

Where is it now, I wonder? Shall I stumble upon it, on the textile trail? I would gladly make room in St. Clement's!

Whoops! I've put my foot in it again, and revealed that the little church where first I preached 38 years ago has - to my great delight - been included on the Textile Trail. Our noted collection of mural monuments to members of the Ives and Harvey families must have made us natural contenders. Our parish history is crammed with textile references.

Archbishop Parker's parents are buried in the churchyard. His father, William, and his brother Thomas (mayor in 1568) were both prosperous worsted-weavers.

Three hundred years earlier, in 1287, Peter le Mouner, a wood-merchant from Amiens, bought a house set between the river, Fye Bridge, Fishergate, and the house of Stephen Wyz, where he lived with his family until his death around 1330.

It was an ideal site, facing Quayside. He could watch the arrival and departure of his merchandise without leaving home. Eventually, he was granted citizenship.

So it goes on. History, heritage, and religion go hand-in-hand. They are not the same thing; but often they shed light upon each other.

I'm thinking of stamping hands with blue dye at St Clement's, in memory of Peter…

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