Student makes altar cloth for St Margaret’s Chapel

They are the guardians of the 12th century chapel built atop Castle Rock by King David I, son of Saint Margaret, and every one of them carries her name.

Lucy Deady puts her cloth on the altar

So when the members of the St Margaret’s Chapel Guild were looking for a promising designer to commission a new cloth altar frontal, there was only one place they were going to go.

Queen Margaret University costume design graduate Lucy Deady, 24, has produced the ornate altar cover for the chapel within Edinburgh Castle, which will be interchanged with the original after it was damaged by mice.

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The design features motifs from the life of Queen Margaret, including a boat to represent the ferry that she provided to offer safe passage to pilgrims travelling to St Andrews from South Queensferry.

The Marguerite flower, from which the name Margaret stems, is also represented, along with a Celtic cross and a wave trim which recalls St Margaret’s journey to Scotland from her birthplace in Hungary.

Guild member Margaret Lindsell said the group was 
“delighted” with the frontal, which supplements one produced in 1993 by artist Hannah Frew Paterson to mark the 900th anniversary of Queen Margaret’s death.

Ms Lindsell said: “Unfortunately, last year some of the Castle mice got at the original, and it had to be extensively repaired.

“We decided that the time had come to have an alternative to share the time on display, so we could extend the life of the original.

“Queen Margaret University has always been connected with the Guild. We went to them and asked if they could come up with someone capable of doing this project.

“We’ve worked with Lucy for the last year, and we’re delighted with what’s been produced. She has done a fantastic job.”

Ms Deady, who comes from Leyland in the north-west of England, said: “I was very nervous. I didn’t realise quite how important it was, because I didn’t know the history before I started, and I didn’t realise how big of a job it would be.

“I worked very closely with members of the Guild to ensure that I understood their needs and reflected this within the new design of the altar frontal.

“I have a passion for machine embroidery and I thought this project offered me a wonderful opportunity to develop a modern design, different to the current cloth but also in keeping with the historical chapel.

“It has been a challenging project but one which I am extremely proud of and which I have really enjoyed working on.”

While the site is owned and operated by Historic Scotland, the Guild has responsibility for the chapel’s contents, including vases, kneelers and benches as well as the altar frontals. Its members are all called Margaret, either as their first or middle name.

The Romanesque chapel is considered to be the oldest building in the Capital, and was the only part of Edinburgh Castle to survive when the fortress was destroyed on the Orders of King Robert the Bruce in 1314 to stop it falling into the hands of the English.