Monday, 18 July 2011

Fylingdales Maidens' Garlands

The four garlands which hang in Old St Stephens are all over 150 years old. The last Maiden’s Garland carried at Fylingdales Church was for the funeral of Janey Levitt who died in 1859 age 20. Her garland was lost during the restoration process in the 1980s but we do know that one of the garlands was made for Elizabeth Harland who died in 1848 age 19. The garlands were probably made by the friends of the young woman who died before she was married and were carried at her funeral. Notes were taken in 1911 from a Mrs Bedlington whose earliest memories were of Jenny Keld’s funeral in 1838 when the girl’s young friends each held a ribbon attached to the hoop.

The garlands hanging in this church were made on to a base of springy wood bound by strips of calico on to which ribbons were sewn and to which rosettes and bows were also attached. Conservation reports have indicated that the garlands would have been quite bright incorporating over 100ft of silk and muslin ribbons which were predominantly white or cream but with some indication of blues and other coloured silks . There are also strips of what were probably “best” dress materials.There are fragments which suggest the remains of cut out white gloves reinforcing the message of purity. These are accompanied by paper hearts on some of the garlands.

The garlands are extremely fragile and have suffered considerably from constant exposure to light dirt and to damage by moths and woodworm. Their deterioration does not in the least detract from their beauty and pathos as reminders of an old funereal custom.

They hang eerily in a sealed cupboard at the back of the church.