The oldest banner in the recent Banner Culture exhibition came from All Saints’ Church in Habergham, Burnley. It was a very popular banner with visitors and we thought you would like to know more about it. Clive Spencer, who organised its loan for the exhibition and Rachel Pollitt, from Gawthorpe Hall, tell us more about this beautiful banner…
The All Saints Church banner in the Banner Culture exhibition represented one of Lancashire’s dying traditions – ‘Walking Day’. On a certain day of the year the church congregation would put on their Sunday best and parade from the church around the parish, holding aloft at least one banner from the church whilst huge crowds lined the streets to watch. In the Manchester area walks were held on Whit Friday, in Padiham on Whit Monday and in Habergham on Whit Sunday, plus there were occasions when all of the churches in the locality held joint processions. Today declining congregations and increasing traffic on the roads have meant that this has almost vanished from our streets, and the banners, often huge in size, now lie unused in many local churches.
Dating back to the late Victorian period, the banner from All Saints Church Habergham was probably made by Manchester based banner makers Thomas Brown & Son, who also made Mrs Pankhurst’s famous suffragette banners among many others. It has an image of Christ as the Good Shepherd in the centre, flowers on the outside with the church name above and below. At over two metres tall it must have been an impressive site as it led the parade.
Habergham’s Walking Day, also known as the Whit Walk or by its official title The Procession of Witness, was one of the highlights of the church year. There was a festival atmosphere in the town with the main road closed to traffic as huge crowds lined the streets to watch. Each church congregation followed their own banner, two of the strongest men of the parish would carry the wooden poles supporting the banner which was of course, held as high as possible. Ropes were also attached, four usually being held again by men of the parish as a sudden gust of wind could cause mayhem. For added visual effect a number of young children would hold guide ropes, whilst being ‘marshalled’ by their Sunday School teachers.
The All Saints Church banner being carried in procession on Padiham Road near the church, circa 1908. Image courtesy of Clive Spencer.
Local photographers produced postcards of the church processions and the day’s events were always covered in the newspapers. The Burnley Express from 30 May 1885 describes:
…a procession of over 300 left the church after a short service, and headed by the Padiham Brass Band and a banner…they proceeded down Padiham Road to Lowerhouse and thence to Ivy Bank, the residence of Col. Dugdale, J.P. In the afternoon buns and coffee were served in a field near Habergham Pit, where several pleasant hours were spent in play. The Park Hill Wesleyans, who preceded the Church procession, were equally numerous.
In the 1950s all the Anglican churches of Burnley including All Saints held joint processions through the town centre. In 1951 it was reported that crowds were up to six deep on the pavement whilst in 1953 nearly 4,000 men, women and children took part in the actual procession alone.
No longer used for Walking Day the Banner Culture exhibition was a welcome opportunity to get the All Saints’ Church banner out for the first time in many years. However after being used in all weathers and serving the parish and church so well for over 100 years it is now in great need of conservation to preserve it for the future, although it is unlikely that it would ever be paraded in the same way again.
All Saints congregation members on the Whit Walk with the banner, passing the old Lane Ends pub circa 1923. Image courtesy of Lancashire County Council Red Rose Collections.
All Saints Banner as part of Banner Culture exhibition. Image courtesy of Clive Spencer.
Banner Culture was created, as part of Mid Pennine Arts’ Pendle Radicals project, for the British Textile Biennial in partnership with Super Slow Way. Pendle Radicals is part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership, supported by National Lottery players through the National Lottery Heritage Fund.