The Kneelers of Guy’s Hospital Chapel
There are about 80 - 90 kneelers in the Chapel at Guy's Hospital, London. It has been hard to find out very much about their origins; what follows are descriptions, and photographs.
The Reverend A J M (Max) Saint took up his post as Hospital Chaplain in 1960, and it seems clear that it was he, and his wife, who had the idea of creating the kneelers, and indeed of making some, or many of them. He arrived as the Hospital was preparing for the Royal Opening of New Guy’s House (Surgical Block) the next year, and this would be a way for the Chapel to play a tangible role in the celebrations. We do not know which kneelers were stitched for the Opening, and which came later on. Neither do we know which were the ones he and his wife worked on, and for the most part, who worked the others. They are remarkably anonymous.
The variety in the styles is arresting, and I would like to suggest, unique. There are “plain” crosses in a multitude of colours; there are ones with the names of famous medical men. Then there are botanical and architectural depictions, and the glorious ones almost telling a story, such as Martha, the Works Department, the Sewing Room and the School of Nursing.etc.
Miss Jaqueline Dungay (1960) worked as a theatre scrub nurse. She told me she had made a kneeler in 2000 commemorating the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing. It was dedicated it to Lord Brock.
Joyce McNiven (1947) said that she "was allowed to do the outside" after Barbara Stevenson (1943) had done the mother and baby middle of the Solomans Centre kneeler. And that perhaps Lydia Bishop (1948) had also helped. She said that Sister Johnson of the Dental School was involved in the organizing.
Also, she said that Queen and Victoria were two wards together, with Queen the gynaecological ward, and Victoria the obstetric/maternity. See below for Victoria Kneeler; Surgical Block notes show Queen as the profile of our own dear QE, for the female orthopaedic ward!
Mrs Collette Gow Giles (1964) made the Sarah kneeler, with birds and flowers. She was asked to do it when in Block, but can't recall if the design was given to her, or was her own. I can’t locate this kneeler.
We appear to have 5 Ward kneelers missing; these are Mary, Evelyn, Sarah, Astley Cooper & Naaman.