Two friendship quilts that were created for the soldiers at Mount Felix have been discovered. Trinity Red Cross Guild’s annual report of 1918 mentions that an autograph quilt and four pounds were sent to Walton-on-Thames hospital in 1917-18. This unfinished calico quilt top with hand-embroidered messages turned up in a second hand shop in Brighton, England recently. An article about it in the Timaru Herald 10 Aug 1916 reads:
“The Ladies Red Cross Guild in connection with Trinity Church have a large quilt which it intended to send to one of the Hospitals where our soldiers are located. The quilt has been very neatly worked with a Red Cross in the centre, and further funds for the Red Cross are being raised by working on it- the name of every person who pays one shilling (or as much more as may be offered. A large number of names are already on the quilt, but there is room for more. It is thought that the soldiers who get the use of the quilt at Home will be more than interested in reading the names which are worked into it.”
The other was recently discovered in an attic in Walton, owned by local man Mike Messina. It was nearly burned on a family bonfire, but rescued just in time. It has been on display in New Zealand House, home of The High Commission of New Zealand, in London.
Stitchers: Walton on Thames WI – Ann Johnson-Russell, Anne Drake, Barbara Johns, Hilary Brooks, Irene Stoker, Linda Lee, Lynne Francke, Pat Stock and Shoba Mooneeram; with Mike Messina and Wendy Ward.
Our WI is a group of sixty women who are interested in the world and how it relates to Walton so the opportunity to take part in the Mount Felix project was irresistible and a great honour. Those who have done the stitching have learned a lot and formed strong friendships. Some had never stitched and some had not done so since school but it was a delight to find we were capable of such fine embroidery. A total of 279 hours was spent on the quilt.
One member had witnessed the dreadful fire at its height. Two of us had worked at Mount Felix since it was offices and three of us have personal New Zealand links. One of us was involved in the rescue of the Stirling Quilt and it was a great pleasure to be able to complete our panel exactly one hundred years after it was made. Mike Messina who owns the quilt put in a few stitches.
In line with WI values this is a personal thank you to the men who lived and recuperated in our town.
Sponsor: Hilary Brooks
There are accounts written of soldiers performing a farewell ‘gang show’ at Mount Felix. Patients are described as dressing up in nurses uniforms to sing and dance an entertainment as a gesture of thanks, before leaving the hospital to return home, or to battle, towards the end of the war.
Stitchers: Anne Hoskins, Sandra Heywood-Jones and Becky Sheen
Becky Sheen: It was a chance meeting at my local library that started me on my journey with the Mount Felix project. Asked to stitch a leaf for the community panel, my enthusiasm was noted and a place on the team for ‘A Fond Farewell’ given to me. What a wonderful time ensued. Stitching away and feeling a connection to the past, present and future.
I based the colouring and look of my pipe smoking nurse on my own husband. A flattering thought for him which made up for the hours spent at my embroidery. I imagined the fun and tomfoolery of the soldiers that night dressing as nurses and having a great knees up!
I’ve enjoyed meeting my fellow stitchers, sharing life stories and sewing tips along the way. I’ve learned that taking a chance, saying yes to things, being brave like the soldiers and nurses we depicted brings rewards. I’ll continue to take more chances…
Anne Hoskins: The comedy of this picture always kept me smiling – even stitching all those dark leaves on grey winter days but best of all was working in a small team, making friends with people I would never had met without this common interest.
This panel features a beautiful poem by one of the patients who was stunned by the beauty and tranquility of his surroundings after the horrors of war.
The patients had enjoyed the river and were sometimes seen out and about in mobile beds. There is a postcard of one such patient and on the back of it is written ‘Old Mick – a fine old fellow, do anything for the patients’.
In 1919 a serious fire destroyed five hospital marquees and a considerable amount of equipment. The number of patients being treated was gradually decreased and the No. 2 New Zealand Hospital closed in March 1920, Oatlands Park Hospital having closed in September 1919. Between them, by the end of the war, they had had nearly 1,900 beds, and some 27,000 patients had been treated during their operational life.
Stitchers: Marion Millinger and Alexandra Withers on behalf of 1st Weybridge Guides.
Alexandra Withers: As a member of Girl Guiding, and leaders of 1st Weybridge Guides, we always encourage our selves to take on a new challenge and do our best. Undertaking the Mount Felix panel was definitely a challenge, having not done embroidery before despite being a trained costumier and having years of experience in sewing.
I have enjoyed working on our panels and being part of a community project and very much hope to do other works of embroidery but perhaps on a smaller scale!
Riverhouse Arts Centre, as it was in 1918, with a message of thanks to the soldier of NZ who fought in WWI, for the nurses and doctors who tended them and the people of Walton who took them to their hearts and welcomed them into their home.
The idea was that all the stitchers who worked on the panels would have their initials in this panel, but as we had over 500 stitchers including the community panel stitchers, this was deemed impossible. The words ‘Keeping the Stories alive’ are a heartfelt message from the team, who have been moved and humbled by the stories depicted in the tapestry.
Stitchers: Stitched up Group. The group was joined by Emily Boulting and Juliet Boulting
‘Stitched Up’ worked this panel and it was the most challenging of the ones we did, with all the tiles, brickwork and timber. The leaves were lovely to do, but had to be kept fairly plain as writing had to be embroidered over the top freehand.
Lesley Tilling: This panel was quite a challenge as there is a lot of brown and grey in it, and we were not able to order more wool at this stage, so we mixed the greys and the browns we already had in the tiles and the planks to make the panel look interesting. We also had the challenge of colouring many leaves which were later to be filled with wording. This panel was completed quite quickly by Linda, Michelle and Val, with my contribution the smallest. I used satin stitch and stem stitch in this panel.
Michele Barnes: This was my third and final panel as it brought the project up to the present time. I found this a difficult and repetitive panel to stitch because it contained so many small roof tiles and bricks, in addition, it includes a large surrounding border of green leaves. Trying to find a different combination of stitches to add interest and texture was also a challenge. However, this was an important panel about a historic building. Therefore, it was important to do it justice. This said, it was a privilege and apposite panel on which to complete my work on the project.
Emily Boulting: I was very happy to be able to put a few stitches in, but had to hand over to my Mum, because she is a ‘proper stitcher’, and had been responsible for introducing me to the idea of doing tapestry in the first place.
Juliet Boulting: Having admired the Prestonpans and Great Scottish Tapestries and heard Andrew Crummy speaking in our Village Hall I was thrilled when Anzac Day in 2015 found me lending support at the launch of The Mount Felix Tapestry. Forward a year to the Halfway Exhibition and, as well as learning how to laminate display cards, I fulfilled my longing to get stitching when Mary Pink allowed me to stemstitch part of an outline on the panel she was working. Later I graduated to a whole leaf on this panel and I am extremely proud of my small contribution.
Sponsor: Riverhouse Barn