A new Banner for Saint Cuthbert

From the 16th century when the wife of Dean Whittingham is said to have destroyed St Cuthbert’s Banner there was no banner in Durham Cathedral to commemorate the saint. In 2008 Chris Kilkenny, Historian to the Northumbrian Association, proposed that a contemporary version of the Banner should be created to replace the long lost original.

Marion Bridgewood, Vice Chair of the Association, was asked to manage the project and what proved to be a four-year project was underway. Detailed historical research and discussions with the Dean of Durham, the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, and the Chapter of Durham Cathedral were needed to conclude the design before work could begin on sourcing the materials, securing funding and engaging a team of local artisans with the skills and passion to produce what was intended to be a sumptuous ecclesiastical artefact.

The Banner Team

L to R Ian Corrigan, Ruth O'Leary, Marion Bridgewood, Les Howe and Fiona Raeside-Elliott

The final design was one of 38 drafts based on the description of the Banner in the Durham Rites. Fiona Raeside-Elliott, Senior Lecturer Northumbria University, led the design work and liaised with the Dean and Chapter to ensure all were satisfied with the final specifications that became the brief for those charged with the creation of the Banner.

 Ruth O’Leary spent over 800 hours doing the embroidery on the Banner cloth meticulously following the agreed design.

 Les Howe designed and made the Sterling Silver St. Cuthbert’s Cross that sits above the Banner and the five bells, also in Sterling Silver, with each crafted to have a different tone.

 Ian Corrigan, leatherworker and pipemaker, made the harness for the Banner from white Alum tanned cowhide. The pole cup depicts St Cuthbert’s cross.

 On 20th March 2012, St Cuthbert’s day and the day on which the original Banner would be used to mark the beginning of the processional season, the new Banner was collected in the market place in Durham by the group of walkers who had made their way from Chester-le-Street on their way to the Cathedral. The walkers were met by a good gathering including children from local schools waving the banners they had made for the occasion and traditional music from pipe and drum.


Chris Kilkenny entertaining the crowd watched by John Danby seated to the left

Historian Chris Kilkenny regaled the crowd with a lively history of St Cuthbert’s Banner and, with the crowd in good spirits and with clear blue skies, the Banner was processed up Saddler Street and onto Palace Green towards the Cathedral where the Dean and Mark, Bishop of Jarrow were waiting to warmly welcome the procession and the Banner. After prayers the Banner moved from the Nave into the Feretory and finally to the Shrine itself.


The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, John and Lynn Cuthbert and musicians at the North Door

That evening, during a special service, the Banner was dedicated before being processed through the Cathedral before the congregation and carried back to the Shrine. It now hangs high on the pillar at the entrance to the Shrine where it can be viewed by visitors to the Cathedral and is regularly used during services. St Cuthbert’s Banner had been restored. You can see more pictures from the day in an 8 minute YouTube clip here.


The new Banner at the Shrine
In the forward to a commemorative booklet The Dean of Durham, The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove said:

“Artists tell us that while vision and inspiration are a vital part of any act of creation, they are only part. A great deal of hard work is also needed to bring it to fruition. These pages are a tribute to everyone who was involved in this wonderful project and committed themselves to this undertaking. This is my opportunity once again to thank them all for the part they played.

In particular, I should like to record my gratitude to John and Lynn Cuthbert who so generously lived up to their great surname and funded the Banner; and to the late John Danby whose enthusiasm for all things Northumbrian played an important role in creating this symbol of our past, present and future here in North East England".