Towneley Hall vestments loaned to national museum

The vestments will form part of the Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery display.
The vestments will form part of the Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery display.

A prestigious set of medieval vestments that is part of the Towneley Hall collection has been loaned to the world-renowned Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum to form part of a major national exhibition.

The pair of Whalley Abbey vestments will be on display in the museum’s autumn Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery exhibition from Saturday, October 1st alongside hundreds of other embroideries.

The vestments on display will showcase the dazzling skill of English needle-workers who stitched gold, silver and pearls into pieces worn by kings and pope.

Councillor Bea Foster, Burnley Council’s executive member for leisure and culture, said: “We were very pleased to support this major national exhibition by loaning important artifacts that we hold in Burnley. This shows that our borough has got some really significant and impressive items in its museum collections.”

The Whalley vestments themselves are made of luxurious Italian velvets and are ornately brocaded with gold thread and coloured silk - a shining example of the fine craftsmanship that existed in medieval England, showing scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary and the infancy of Christ.

The full set set includes a chasuble, two dalmatics and a maniple, and was first recorded in the inventory of the Cistercian abbey in Whalley, before being rescued by Sir John Towneley, a member the Towneley family, a local Roman Catholic family, who kept and occasionally used the vestments over the following four centuries.

The Whalley Abbey vestments are set to be back to on the permanent display at Towneley Hall in February next year, while a V&A Museum spokesperson said: “We are so grateful to Towneley Hall for their agreement to lend the beautiful chasuble and dalmatic from the collection.”