We are the Diocese of Leeds: Stitching together in Bradford Cathedral

After a weekend of Great Get Togethers, this week’s film in our year long campaign to tell the story of our rich and varied life here in the Diocese of Leeds, looks at a very special project in Bradford Cathedral that has been bringing people together from all sorts of different backgrounds for over a year now.

Stitch in the Cathedral allows people to share a unique moment in that sacred space at the top of the city as they come together to stitch kneelers, designed by artist, Polly Meynell, for the high altar. 

As Canon Missioner, Mandy Coutts, pictured left, says, this project pulls in people from all over the city.  “This is a sacred space and for a lot of people there’s a real healing moment in having that space to talk, to reflect - it's a real therapeutic moment for all concerned."

Hospitality, faithfulness and wholeness are at the heart of its mission and Bradford Cathedral is committed to deepening understanding and mutual respect between people of differing faiths with the aim of helping build resilient communities of hope within Bradford.

But this story also goes to the heart of Bradford's rich history. During WW1, Bradford woman, Louisa Pesel, a traveller and collector, was back at the family home in Manningham. She was a skilled needlewoman - she would become the first president of the Embroiderers' Guild - and recognised needlework's therapeutic qualities. She got involved with the Bradford Khaki Handicrafts Club that was set up in 1918 to provide occupational therapy and employment for men returning from the war.  


The Khaki Club was housed in Foster Square. It had a restaurant, games room, and library and was set up with the help of the Abram Peel Hospital and the Bradford Women’s Police Patrols. The Hospital was opened in 1915 as a specialist neurological hospital and by 1919 it had 437 beds and treated hundreds of wounded soldiers. The Bradford Women’s Police Patrols was set up to help women mill workers return home safely at night.. The women decided to help the 19,000 plus soldiers who were at various hospitals across Bradford and set up the Club. Women volunteers would meet the hospital trains and introduced the soldiers to the Khaki Club.

Louisa Pesel taught many shell shocked soldiers there. She helped them embroider what became known as the Khaki Altar Cloth - a cross stitch superfrontal. It was made at the club in the autumn of 1918 for use during services in the Abram Peel Hospital. The cloth is now part of the Bradford Cathedral collection of embroidered religious robes and altar cloths.

Stitch in the Cathedral takes place Tuesdays 1 - 3pm and Saturdays 9.30am -11.30am (see dates below) and anyone can just turn up, no commitment needed. There will be a special celebration service for everyone who has taken part - even a single stitch - at the end of the project - sometime next year.

Tuesday dates are: 

July 4th, 18th 

Aug 1st, 15th, 29th 

Sept 12th 

Oct 10th, 24th 

Nov 7th, 21st, 

Dec 5th


Aug 19th 

Sept 16th 

Nov 18th

If you would like more information about the stitching project please contact Gillian Davis, Education and Visitors Officer Telephone 01423 777720 gillian.davis [at] bradfordcathedral.org


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