New book claims Wadham houses oldest kneelers

Date Published: 24.04.2023

Author Elizabeth Bingham traces history of church kneeler cushions.

Scheduled for publication on May 4, Kneelers by Elizabeth Bingham "is a celebration of the most widely practised - but often overlooked - folk art in England and Wales over the past ninety years: the design and craft of church kneelers."

Within its pages, Lady Bingham locates the origins of decorated church kneelers in the seventeenth century. These early kneelers featured symbols or coats of arms in honour of benefactors, and were made in Turkey work; "the term given to wool-work in which the yarns are knotted as in carpets to create a pile and are not woven or stitched."

Lady Bingham claims that the oldest surviving examples of such kneelers are Wadham's, made in honour of Nicholas and Dorothy Wadham, and of King James VI and I. She suggests the kneelers may have been removed from Wadham's chapel and stored in the archives when fashions and allegiances changed, accounting for their ‘excellent’ condition.

from page 29 of 'Kneelers' by Elizabeth Bingham

from page 29 of 'Kneelers' by Elizabeth Bingham

A copy of Kneelers has been ordered for Wadham's library.

Images of Wadham's kneelers are currently featured in an exhibition in our ante-chapel, which celebrates 410 years since Wadham's chapel was consecrated.