We have six embroidered processional banners, which are carried at church festivals and certain special services. At other times, we usually display them either side of the high altar. Each one measures six feet six inches by three feet.
Made from white silk brocade and embroidered in rich silks, this banner has designs of roses, thistles, shamrocks and leeks – and in the centre, a figure of St Martin on horseback, dividing his cloak with the beggar. It was designed by the Reverend EE Dorling, and presented in November 1921 by the Church Lads' Brigade as a memorial to those who died in the Great War. The Latin inscription on the reverse can be translated as, 'In eternal memory of members who recently so splendidly died in war for God, King and Country, the CLB gave this banner in 1921.
This banner is made from blue and dark mauve brocaded silk damask, embroidered with rich silks depicting a wreath of red and white roses around the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child. Flanking them are St Peter, patron saint of the Abbey, and St Edward the Confessor, holding up his ring. The banner was presented on 4th November 1922 by the Girls' Friendly Society, and was designed by J Ninian Comper. The inscription reads, 'They died that freedom still should live, in life, O friends, as proudly give'.
The Mothers' Union presented this banner, designed by J Ninian Comper, on 22nd June 1926. Made from blue and gold brocaded silk damask, it's embroidered in silks with a circle of white, edged with gold. Within this, you can see Christ holding a cross, standing on a green mound at the head of a flock of sheep, with St Peter kneeling for blessing in front.
This crimson and gold damask silk banner, embroidered in rich green silk, shows a figure of St Oswald, King of Northumbria, clad in armour with a surcoat of red and gold. It was presented in September 1938 by the Church of England Mens' Society.
Designed by Christopher Webb, this banner was presented in 1945 by Eulalie Buckmaster in memory of her father. An inscription on a plate on the banner pole reads, 'In memory of Walter Selby Buckmaster October 16 1872: October 30 1942'. Made from gold cloth and embroidered in rich silks, it depicts a figure of St Edward the Confessor holding a model of the Abbey, which he built, and a charter of foundation. The design also includes the shields of arms of St Peter, St John the Evangelist, the Abbey monastery and the Collegiate Church.
Made from cream and rose damask silk, this banner features a figure of St George, patron saint of England, dressed as an officer in the Roman army and trampling on a dragon. The designer was Christopher Webb, and the banner was presented in 1948 by Mrs Itterson-Pronk, a member of the Abbey congregation. The scroll around the head of the saint reads, 'George victorious champion knight of Christendom patron of the most noble realm of England', and below, 'This blessed plot, This earth, This realm, This England'.
You can buy photographs of the banners from Westminster Abbey Library.
The biggest challenge we face is maintaining such a large physical collection of material within a historic building – believe it or not, there’s just not enough space for it all.