Within the Gothic Revival, architects, most notably A. W. N. Pugin and G. E. Street, had promoted embroidery with the vigorous conviction that it was a vital and serious practice. Many of the finest vestments and other embroidery of the Gothic Revival were architect-designed, but it is often forgotten how often the makers' art was valued.... By the 1890s, with the impact of art-school training, embroidery, especially at the Glasgow School of Art, became an experimental, innovative craft. — Lynne Walker, p. 126

[Thomas] Wardle's wife, Elizabeth, also is worth attention. A lot of women worked in the [textile] industry, but a more genteel pursuit was embroidery, particularly in making tapestries and banners for churches.

Sometime around 1879, Thomas and his wife Elizabeth set up the Leek Embroidery School. — "Thomas Wardle"

THE VESTMENTS: In the old Covenant it was commanded that vestments should be made for the High Priest, “for glory and for beauty” (Ex. xxxviii. 2): for beauty, because God, who has made the world so full of beautiful things, would have us honour Him by dedi cating His own lovely handiwork; for glory, that they might show forth something of His secret excellence.... Therefore, the Christian Church has almost always used in service such things as are alike beautiful in art and ymbolical in meaning; and the English Church, in particular, enjoins this practice when she bids that “the chancels shall remain as they have done in time past,” and directs her ministers to wear such vestments as were in use in the second year of Edward VI. The Christian religion is, indeed, a spiritual religion; but a spiritual religion is not one which discards outward ceremonies, but one which fulfils them by proclaiming their inner meaning. — H.H.J., p. 24


Church-Related Embroidery

Secular Embroidery


Crane, Walter. “Needlework as a Mode of Artistic Expression. Complete text. The International Studio 22 (1898): 144-48, 197-202. Transcribed from the Hathi Trust Digital Library online version of a copy in the library of University of Chicago. 22 January 2018.

"Elizabeth Leeke Wardle." Geni. Web. 26 January 2016.

Grute, Gillian. Heavenly Embroidery. Leominster, Herefordshire: Gracewing, 2023.

J., H. H. S. Augustine's Church, Kilburn. A Short Account of Its Structure, Vestments, and Other Works of Art. London: Morton & Burt, 1894. Hathii Trust. From a copy in the library of Princeton University. Web. 26 April 2021.

"St Edward's Church, Leek." Staffordshire Past Track (Staffordshire County Council). Web. 26 January 2016.

"Thomas Wardle." Stoke & Staffordshire Local History (BBC archives). 6 January 2016.

Walker, Lynne. "Women and Church Art." In Churches 1870-1919. Studies in Victorian Architecture & Design (The Victorian Society). 3 (2011): 121-43.

Walton, Cathryn. Hidden Lives: Leek's Extraordinary Embroiderers. Leek: Churnet Valley Books, 2014.

Last modified 31 October 2023