Published: 12:55, 28 May 2021
| Updated: 13:55, 28 May 2021
Five decorated textile panels inspired by two parks have taken pride of place in a new café which is due to open this summer.
The work was done by hand and machine by five women over five years.
The stitched pieces adorn the oak-panelled interior of the Grade-II listed former billiards room at Kearsney Abbey, Dover, which has been restored as part of the £3.1 million lottery-funded Kearsney Parks project.
As the sole surviving part of the grand former country house, the billiards room has been used for decades as the cafe. When it opens with its new extension it will also be available for community hire.
The textiles were designed and created by the Kearsney Stitchers, a group of local textile enthusiasts. Pauline Danson, Susanne Leggatt, Wendy Ward, and Bev Williams, plus professional textile artist Rosie James, took more than 1,500 hours to create the unique panels.
They were inspired by old photographs of Kearsney Abbey and Kearsney Court, now Russell Gardens, along with the stories of people who lived and worked on the grand country estates before they became public parks.
"The panels will be a great way to tell the next generation about the history of these parks." Bev Williams
Postcards and tea towels featuring the textiles will be on sale at the Kearsney Café with all sales from merchandise, food and drinks used for the upkeep of the parks.
Cllr Oliver Richardson, Dover District Council cabinet member with responsibility for parks, said: “We’re grateful to the Kearsney Stitchers for their hours of painstaking work to create these wonderful textiles.
“Alongside the restoration works, the Kearsney Stitchers have created a unique way in which to bring the heritage, flora and fauna of the parks to a wider audience.”
Mrs Williams said: “ The project has been a real labour of love.
“Several members of the group have welcomed new grandchildren over the past three years so the panels will be a great way to tell the next generation about the history of these wonderful public parks.”
The Barlow panel by Mrs Williams tells of the Barlow family who lived at Kearsney Court from 1901 to 1912.
Edward Barlow was chairman of Wiggins Teape, the Dover papermakers, and his wife Alice was President of the Dover Women’s Suffrage Society.
Mrs Williams' piece was inspired by a collection of original photographs of the Barlow family collated by the late Ralph Harding, who lived at Kearsney Court.
The Harding Archive is available on the Kearsney Parks website offering an insight into Edwardian life.
This panel is created to represent a page in a photograph album and makes a feature of the people, garden, and the family car.
The flora and fauna panel is by Mrs Danson and represents the plants and animals in the parks.
It is also based on one of the paths from the design of Russell Gardens.
The lake and parkland of Kearsney Abbey are also represented, with the iconic Cedar of Lebanon tree taking centre stage.
The background was created from dyed fabric, printed photographs, and machine embroidery.
Mrs Danson's family lived next to Kearsney Abbey for 60 years.
The architecture panel by Ms James features the buildings in the parks.
It is inspired by photographs in the Harding Archive plus historic documents including the conditions of sale of the Kearsney Abbey estate from 1907.
The piece consists of 12 circles within squares to represent plates on a tablecloth. Each circle zooms in on a detail of the buildings, bridges, or furniture on the panel.
The Garden Panel by Mrs Ward is inspired by Edwardian landscape architect Thomas Mawson’s original design for Kearsney Court Gardens.
It shows his signature features with gardens laid out in a formal, symmetrical style, with a large semi-circular rose garden and central fountain, a lily pond and a 170m long lake.
Today the gardens are Grade II Listed in the Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens.
The industry panel by Mrs Leggatt focuses on the mills powered by the River Dour, a rare chalk stream that flows through both parks.
At one stage there were 13 paper and corn mills along the river, with Dover having the first recorded mill in Britain around 762AD.
The mills helped to create the wealth of the businessmen who created their country estates at Kearsney Court, including Edward Barlow, and local brewer, Alfred Leney.
The panel features a map dated around 1816 and is quartered by images of four mills, including Buckland Paper Mill, with its iconic clock tower and a 1770 image of an earlier mill which once stood on the site.
Top right shows Kingsford Windmill Brewery from around 1800.
Bottom right shows the remains of River Paper Mill, now a haven for wildlife in the grounds of Kearsney Abbey.
It also features and the 1812-built Crabble Corn Mill, one of the best preserved and working Georgian watermills in Europe.