Minster unveils tapestry’s tragic story of a mother’s heartbreak

Minster unveils tapestry’s tragic story of a mother’s heartbreak

A RARE tapestry which almost ended up in a jumble sale is now on display in Dewsbury Minster after being saved and restored by Dewsbury journalist Margaret Watson, who presented it to the church this week.

The tapestry was created 150 years ago by Sarah Ann Imeson, in memory of nine of her children who died in infancy between 1855 and 1871. The names of the children and where they were born and buried are embroidered on the unique piece of art.

Sarah Ann and husband Christopher moved to Dewsbury in 1855 at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Christopher had been a farm labourer on the Studley Farm Royal Estate near Ripon, and Sarah Ann was a servant at Arlington House, Knaresborough.

The couple moved to Dewsbury for a better life, but nothing could have prepared them for the sorrows in store. Within months of arriving in Dewsbury, Sarah Ann gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. But the boy, born at lunchtime, lived only 40 minutes and was in his grave by teatime, sharing a coffin with a stranger being buried that day.

His father registered his birth and death on the same day at Dewsbury Register Office.

The little girl lived for only seven weeks. Both children were buried in Dewsbury parish churchyard in unmarked graves.

Sarah Ann gave birth to nine more children, but only two  – Arthur and Amy – survived to maturity, married and outlived their parents.

Christopher Imeson died of a stroke in 1885 aged 55 and Sarah Ann died in 1897 of heart failure aged 67.

Their son Arthur, who had five children, died in 1935 aged 66. His sister Amy had no children and died in 1934, aged 61.

Two of Arthur’s children died in infancy but his wife, Elizabeth, nee Coldwell, eventually gave birth to three healthy children, Wilf, Dorothy and Alec. They all grew to maturity but none of them had children to whom the tapestry could be passed on.

The blood-line of Sarah and Christopher ended in 1964 with the death of their youngest grandchild Alec, who was living in Bristol.

He had inherited the tapestry from his parents and when he died it was passed on to his wife, Malvina. It then came into the possession of Malvina’s sister, Pat Collier, who in 1999 passed it on to Margaret for safe-keeping. It had lain in a drawer at Pat’s home after Malvina died and had been forgotten.

Fearful that it could be thrown away or given to a jumble sale when she died, Pat contacted Margaret and asked if she would find a home for it.

Three days later the tapestry arrived at Margaret’s office in a black bin-liner, looking more like an old piece of blanket than a work of art. It was only after being professionally stretched and framed that its full beauty was revealed.

On Monday it was presented to the minster by Margaret and unveiled by John Flowers, a descendant of the Imeson family on Christopher’s side.

John and his cousin, Perry Exley, of Winnipeg, Canada, have helped Margaret enormously over the years in her research on the tapestry.

They have presented a book to the minster containing all their findings, including a family tree of the Imeson family going back many generations.

The unveiling ceremony was organised by the Mother’s Union, who have been doing great work in the district supporting parents who have lost children.

The Reverend Kevin Partington said the tapestry was a valuable piece of social history and the Minster was proud to accept it.

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