St Mary’s Alter Cloth

St. Mary’s Church

One Sunday morning at the 8am service I was quite struck by the beauty of the altar, and the red cloth covering it. This made me wonder about the, history and significance, of the different cloths you see, over the yearly calendar of the church.

Colton Church has four Altar Cloths, and these are made in the Liturgical colours of red, white, green and violet. The material that hangs in front of the altar and contains the cross is called the Frontal, the top section that hangs down the sides of the altar for about 10 to 12 inches is caller the Super, meaning above. All of the altar cloths have various Embellishments which are the Cross, Fleur-de-lis, roses and panels.

The White altar cloth is modern, and the Frontal and Super are all in one. It was presented as a gift in 1977 by Mrs Elizabeth Bettson, in memory of her husband Bernard who was the church warden from 1936 to 1961. The original white frontal dated from 1851 and there is a suggestion that it may have been made from silk produced in Leek, but confirmation of this has not been established. However the Embellishments from the original cloth, which has long since gone, have been transferred onto the Cope (this is worn over the shoulders of the vicar) which was made at the same time as the new white altar cloth. The white cloth is used for all Festivals in the Life Time of our Lord, and for Harvest Festival. It is used to commemorate all Virgins, Teachers and Bishops.

The Green altar cloth was donated in circa 1958, anonymously. However the Cross on the frontal is from the original white frontal and this delicate, skilful piece of work was done by Mrs Marjorie Sapsford in 1977, wife of the then rector Revd. LW Sapsford. It is used on all Sundays during Trinity except for Feast days, and the beginning of February until Lent begins.

The Violet altar cloth is very old, about 150 years. It has recently been refurbished with a new violet base cloth and the embellishments have been transferred by Jane Dew of Stafford. The restoration work has been dedicated to the memory of Patrick Johnson. The Violet cloth is used in the Penitential seasons Advent and Lent.

The Red frontal is the largest and more ornate of all the cloths. The back cloth and the embellishments date from 1851. In 1996 it was refurbished to commemorate 90 years of worship and service at Colton Church by the Cooper/Bradbury family. The frontal has two original William Morris panels. He was once an apprentice to George Edmond Street, the Architect who redesigned Colton Church in 1851. It is used to commemorate the Apostles and Martyrs, used during Holy Week, Pentecost and on the four Sundays before Advent.

The cloths are stored in a purpose built cupboard and require more than one person to handle them. They are very impressive and I will look at them with admiration in the future.

I hope you too will enjoy their beauty and little bit of history.

Marie Havelock