THE CULROSS QUILT
A CANADIAN WORLD WAR I QUILT
06 March 2021
David March © 2019
QUEEN MARY'S NEEDLEWORK GUILD
In 1882, the matron of a Dorset orphanage asked for help from Lady Wolverton in providing clothes for the children in her care. Lady Wolverton responded by setting up a small sewing circle known as the London Needlework Guild. Its aim was to provide two garments a year for each child, any surplus being offered to other charities. By the end of the first year, the Guild had 460 members. Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, mother of the future Queen Mary, showed interest and in 1885 became its patron. In 1894, the year that Lady Wolverton died, 52,289 garments, mostly handmade, were distributed.
On her mother's death in 1897, the Duchess of York, later Queen Mary, became patron and remained so until 1953.
World War I
On the outbreak of World War I, the Guild diverted its work towards supporting the troops. The Guild was renamed the Queen Mary's Needlework Guild, its aims being to provide comforts for the troops and an opportunity for upper class women to contribute to the war effort. There was some criticism of the work of the Guild, some feeling that by supplying these items women were undermining the ability of working women to make a living from the manufacture of the same items. This was partly refuted by the fact that some items were not provided by the government or not in sufficient quantities, and were therefore not being purchased by the government. Also, members of the Guild were encouraged to purchase items made by workers, thereby giving them paid work and protecting their jobs. Sewing groups were set up all over the country, the members both buying and making items and fundraising for materials and for donations to the Red Cross. During this period, there were 430 branches of the Guild in the country.
During World War I, at the request of Queen Mary, branches of the Guild were established in most of the colonies including India, Ceylon, Jamaica, the African Gold Coast, British Guinea and Canada with the same object as the British Guild, to provide items for the troops. After the war, the Canadian Guild continued to operate, making goods for emergency events in Canada.
When the war ended, the Guild resumed making and distributing clothes to the poor.
World War II
During World War II, membership declined and Queen Mary worked to revitalise the movement.
In 1953, on the death of Queen Mary, her daughter Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, became the patron, and in 1986, the Guild was again renamed as the Queen Mary's Clothing Guild. In 2002 it was incorporated into the Royal Group and in 2003, Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra, the Honourable Lady Ogilvy, became its patron. In 2010, the Guild was again renamed as the Queen Mother's Clothing Guild in honour of the Queen Mother who had been its patron until her death in 2002.
The Guild keeps a list of charities it supports. Any charity can apply to be included in the list. The Guild asks each charity to identify its needs and during the year, the Guild makes every effort to meet those needs. During one week each year, known as Packing Week, all items made or purchased by members are sent to St James' Palace. There they are sorted into categories and displayed on tables. Members are given a list of items needed by a particular charity and go round the tables to collect what is necessary. The items are then packaged and dispensed to the relevant charities. In 2014, 21,126 items were distributed.
Queen Mary's Needlework Guild: Its Work during the Great War, St James' Palace 1914 - 1919. Copy in the Imperial War Museum.
To see information about the Junior Workers named on the quilt click here.