The Ministry of Flowers

Two vases of flowers, one on either side of the central altar cross, appeared on the narrow ledge of the reredos soon after it was installed (1898).

We have no records regarding whether flowers, appeared anywhere near the altar , the box pews or the pulpit in pre-1890 days in Giggleswick church. During the 19th century, there was controversy about whether vases of cut flowers or flower or plant decorations (as at Christmas) should appear in the worship areas of Anglican churches. Certainly, in Anglo Catholic churches where the altar and not the pulpit, was the main focus, all the wall decoration, reredos motifs, embroidered altar cloths, had to enhance the Eucharistic purpose of the altar. Some of the most popular motifs were vine leaves/grapes, the Alpha/Omega, IHS symbols, lilies and the Trinitarian shamrock leaf. In some cases, craftsmen took inspiration from the description of Solomon’s temple in I Kings 7 and 1 Chronicles 3, and reproduced symbols like the pomegranate, flowers and palm leaves in embroidery on the altar hangings alongside the Christian symbols. Cut flowers in vases in close proximity to the altar, would therefore not be welcome.

From the photographs of the east end in the Red Book, it seems that two vases of flowers, one on each side of the central brass altar cross, were placed regularly on the reredos shelf over the altar. This practice must have lasted from the early 1900s to at least the end of the 1920s. No doubt the practice continued long after that. Entries in the Red Book do not go beyond the early 1930s. One photograph shows the chancel decorated with fruit, vegetables and greenery for a Harvest Festival.

We do not know when a flower arrangement first appeared on the tall wooden stand in the Memorial chapel; nor do we know when the vases of flowers on the reredos shelf disappeared and the two low wooden flower stands topped with vases of flowers, appeared at each side of the main altar. Certainly, as soon as the altar was drawn away from the reredos in the 1980s, these stands would be in use. Their low height does not take away the focus on the main altar, nor are they near enough as were their predecessors, to interfere with its Eucharistic symbolism.

Flower Festivals

Flower festivals, sometimes joined together with with Craft displays, when flowers appear in artistic arrangements in different parts of the church, draw in members of the general public who are always impressed by the beauty of the displays. So that there are flowers appropriately placed for services of worship, a weekly rota is arranged for the acquisition and arrangement of flowers for those near the altar and in the Memorial chapel. Appeals are made to the congregation from time to time to make financial contributions.

Flower Rota

By the 1960s, a group of of ladies who were church members or friends of the church, came together as a team to be responsible for flowers in the church. These ladies have a special gift of artistry where flower arrangement is concerned and their efforts are much appreciated by members of the congregation and indeed, by members of the public who are visitors to our ancient church.
K Kinder 03/20

– Pam Jordan for contributing from her professional knowledge of flower arranging and its history.
– Sue Taylor for jotting down her memories of flower arranging in Giggleswick church from the late 1960s to the present day (2020)

Flower Displays

Flowers are chosen according to the season of the year. Lilies for example, appear at Easter, chrysanthemums often at Harvest Festival, while Christmas has its own decorations of winter flowers with greenery . A special activity then is the skilful garlanding of several pillars in the church with traditional Christmas greenery.

On Mothering Sunday, small bunches of flowers, usually with daffodils as a main feature, are presented to the ladies of the congregation.

Flowers are absent in church during Lent to appear once again to gladden our eyes and hearts on Easter Sunday.