Posted by: marymarthatours | July 8, 2011

Ripon Cathedral and its Millennium Cushions

02 Ripon Cath., 2010 

Ripon Cathedral


I just love the surprises that happen along the way when traveling. One can plan to the finest detail the agenda and still “things will happen”. Rain can wash out the garden plans and the substituted museum can turn out to be hidden gem. Mary and I both enjoy planning ahead for our trips. When we traveled to England last fall, we each had a wish list of things we wanted to see and do. Most of these we did accomplish, though some were omitted due to illness, weather, etc. And yet, we did experience some little unexpected surprises along the way. Our day trip out from York one Saturday held one of these treasures for us.


High on both of our to-do lists was a day trip to Fountains Abbey and the Studley Royal Gardens. Mary had checked the weather forecast, and with the hope of a dry day, we set aside Saturday for the excursion which required taking a bus from York to Ripon then transferring to another bus for a short ride to Fountains Abbey. Mary had been to Fountains Abbey twice before but had not walked the long trek into the gardens of Studley Royal. I had never been there.

In Ripon at the bus transfer stop, I saw the spires of a large worship building. “That must be Ripon Cathedral,” I said. “Yes,” Mary replied, recognizing it from a previous visit. We had about an hour between buses so off we went for a quick visit to the Cathedral.


I honestly did not see much inside except for the amazing needlepoint cushions that sit atop the stone benches along the interior walls of the entire nave. We both have done needlepoint so could appreciate the thousands of hours (and over 5 million stitches) that went into the creation of the 38 cushions. Each one represents a piece of the history of this area of Yorkshire and the history of Ripon and the Cathedral. They were created as a commemorative project celebrating the 2000 Millennium. I purchased a book about the cushions at the cathedral gift shop so that I could learn more and see them all again in the photographs.


 A newspaper article states that the project, “…united a stitching group with Tibetan nuns, ex-prisoners of war, a former bomber pilot and various community groups.” Many hands and creative hearts and minds have come together, and we as unexpected visitors were left in awe by their marvelous legacy.


If ever I design a “quilt and textile tour” in Britain, the cushions at Ripon Cathedral will be a possible stop, perhaps on a day including an outing to Castle Howard. And if we go, I promise to spend more time seeing all the rest of Ripon Cathedral.

After our too short visit at the cathedral, Mary and I were off to the supermarket to purchase a picnic lunch and onto the bus to Fountains Abbey which I’ll tell about in my next blog posting.

(by Martha)


With sincere thanks to Connie Birkinshaw and the “Ripon City Stitchers” for permission to use photos from the book, “Ripon’s Millennium Cushions”, available at Ripon Cathedral and soon through the Cathedral’s on-line shop.



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