Our Virgers are working flat out at this time of year. The Cathedral holds a number of extra services at Christmas and most of these will also include rehearsals and practices. With a spring in their step and a jangle of keys, the virgers set to work to ensure that the Cathedral is both a place of quiet worship and prayer, and vibrant celebration and praise throughout the festive season; and this year they will be doing so in style.
A new set of 12 matching ceremonial gowns for the Vesturer and Cathedral Virgers have been presented to the department. They were designed by Maggie Cook (from a concept by the current Vesturer, Chris Crooks) and made locally by Mrs Jenny Simmons, both of whom are skilled members of the Cathedral’s Holy Stitchers.
The basic background fabric is black, reflecting the Benedictine tradition of the Cathedral, inherited from the time of the mediaeval Priory. The purple facings and linings to the back pleats incorporate the colour worn by the Cathedral’s Choir and Servers; and the “Dean & Chapter Blue” trim is inspired by the field of the arms of the Dean & Chapter (which were also previously the arms of Christchurch Priory), still to be seen on many of the shields around the Cathedral and which in recent times has been used as the corporate colour on the Cathedral’s stationery, publicity material and website.
The new gowns are the combined gift of all the generous donations given by friends and colleagues in memory of Jim and Rosa Hyde, whose funerals had been held at the Cathedral. Jim and Rosa were both long-standing members of the Cathedral community. Jim, who died in December 2011, was Treasurer of the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral and a Cathedral Chief Steward for many years. Due to his commitment, he was awarded the MBE for his services to the Cathedral. Rosa, who died earlier in July 2009, was a Cathedral flower arranger and was also fully involved in Cathedral life. An additional gift has also been received from the Revd Michael Reeves, raised in sponsorship during the 2012 Kent Historic Churches Ride and Stride event.
The gowns were first worn in September 2012, at the Church of England Guild of Vergers’ 80th Anniversary Conference, which was hosted by the Cathedral They have been in daily use since Advent Sunday and we think they look great!