Conservation of Loom Woven Wall Panels

Click here to read the progress reports

The small unlisted historical chapel in the centre of Whitchurch Road Cemetery was designed by architect George H Birch and built in 1892, the year that the cemetery was opened.  Mounted on the interior walls is a series of 15 beautiful, highly decorative, loom-woven panels.

Not all of these beautiful Victorian panels were in good condition and over time some, especially those on the North wall become loose, damaged and worn.   The Friends Group decided to try to find a suitably qualified Conservator and to raise the necessary funds to allow the panels to be conserved.

We were all incredibly relieved and delighted when this worthwhile project was finally completed. The conservation work was carried out off-site.   The panels were cleaned and stabilised, any damaged areas were realigned and the panels were mounted onto a non-stretchy support material.  Analysis of the fibres by Historic England showed that they were not rush but were probably marram grass, although we still do not know where they were made or how they came to be in the chapel. We were stunned and delighted that the reverse side of the panels showed their original vibrant colour and we unanimously decided to display them in this way.

It was a huge honour to be able to show these rare and intricately patterned panels to the public at our opening event in September 2022. The chapel and grounds were spruced up and there was extreme excitement, especially when the true beauty of the panels was revealed to those assembled. The panels are part of our heritage and have now been saved for future generations.

We remain extremely grateful to Pieta Greaves of Dracon Heritage and Conservation for her painstaking and wonderful work.   Several local people kindly made personal donations and generous grants were received from: Wem Civic Society; The Mid Counties Co-op; Wem Rural Parish Council; Wem Town Council; The Barber Trust.  We also received a very generous grant from Shropshire Historic Churches Trust.  In addition, we were awarded a grant from the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers. Our thanks go to all those who so kindly contributed.

We are now looking forward to opening the chapel as often as possible so that the panels can be widely admired.