Kneelers at St John's : an introduction by Beryl Johnson

My own introduction to ‘doing a kneeler’ was in the early days of the project. Being used to embroidery I offered and was asked to do one of the Peace Doves designs. Having made 1, I got hooked with the desire to create original designs with a religious motif for the kneelers. I was fortunate in finding Alison Harris who was an artist to create designs for me. She was always very willing and understood the need for them to be transplanted on to squared paper to help the person embroidering the kneeler. Each square represented one tent stitch. One of the first she designed was the Pelican with Chalice from one of my favourite fables The image of the Pelican feeding her young on drops of blood from her breast reflect Christ’s sacrificial offering in the Sacraments received at the Eucharist or Service of Holy Communion. She also did the Florence Nightingale design commemorating her life of service to the wounded in the Crimean War under very stark conditions. She became known as the Lady of the Lamp as she would tour the darkened tents to give comfort to the dying and those in distress. She died in August 1910.


The kneeler depicting the events in 2011 of the destruction of the World Trade Centre in the USA was the result of a photograph I saw in the Newspaper. The black and white contrast highlights the buildings and the fire which swept through them. I added the Peace Dove and the flags of some of the members of the United Nations indicating their involvement and concern. I later wrote to the Editor of the Newspaper telling him I had greatly appreciated and made use of the design for one of our Church Kneelers. I think he gave me the name of the Artist but I don’t remember now and no longer have the letter.


I then decided I would like to design kneelers with the words of Jesus known as the Great “I AM’s and I completed five of them. The first was “I am the Fruit of the Vine” which I made to commemorate the life of Jim and Rene Spencer both of whom I had known well. Her niece Mary Turner donated the kneeler.

“I am the Light of the World”. This kneeler was asked for and donated by Steve Cundy in memory of his wife Anne who died during David Reindorp’s Incumbency. Steve and Anne were Managers of the Rock Public House and Steve has remained as a loyal member of the Congregation since her death. I discussed the design with him as I always do when it is a personal donation.

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. June Brignell asked for a kneeler to commemorate the Women’s World Day of Prayer and this seemed to me to be a suitable message. The column of people holding lights represent the prayers of the people and the colours reflect many nations. They are all going somewhere (the Way?) alongside a river which represents the tears of many. The rising sun reflects the hope of the world. In the distance are flocks of doves.

“I am the Good Shepherd” is one of my favourites. Marie Burrows found the picture in a Bible she had as a child. Pamela Barrel enlarged the design for me and put it on squared paper.

The last one was “I am the Bread of Life” which fitted in very well with Vera Faulkner’s kneeler in memory of Philip Faulkner – her brother-in-law I think, who had been a Farmer.

The most difficult one I had to do was the kneeler celebrating the 900th Centenary of Ely Cathedral. I took the design of the ring of people from the badges sold to commemorate the occasion. The dark pink colour doesn’t show up as well as I had hoped. The Bishop and St Etheldreda were also quite difficult to do. However it does commemorate a very important event in the life of the Diocese.