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Elaine Rowland has been closely involved with our Poppy Project, which has formed an integral part of our World War One Centenary commemorations. The Poppy Project saw the creation of 77 (plus more!) handcrafted poppies to represent each fallen alumnus on the memorial plaque in the University Chapel. Elaine contributed handcrafted poppies, as well as volunteering to mount the poppies on to a wreath to be displayed in a cabinet.

Elaine is currently studying a part-time Master’s in Gender Studies here at the University and this week, she tells us more about her involvement in our most recent project…

“Last Friday (June 22), the Centenary Service for the University of Chester’s World War One Centenary commemorations was held. The University Sewing Group’s Poppy Project has been an important part of this. I was responsible for mounting the poppies we created on to a wreath, for display in the University Chapel.

180624 - wreath 1

“Most of the poppies were three-dimensional, but three had been worked in cross stitch. These were sewn flat onto the wreath, and the others attached around them. Once the wreath was complete, it had to be sewn onto the backing fabric. Because the backing would be laced across a board for the display, it needed to be stretched before the wreath was attached. Otherwise there was a danger it would tear when it was pulled taut. I got round this by pinning the stretched backing fabric across a large notice board, and then sewing on the wreath (with a metal ruler underneath where I was sewing, so that I didn’t accidentally stitch the whole thing to the felt cover of the board). It was quite a stretch to reach across at the corners!

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“The completed wreath sits inside a beautiful oak cabinet made especially for the project by Rob Nicholas, a very talented cabinet maker from Liverpool. Rob based the cabinet on World War One campaign chests; the wooden boxes soldiers were given to store their belongings. The cabinet can be displayed flat, or raised like a lectern in keeping with its academic surroundings. There is a poppy on each side of the base, and the names of the 77 are carved into the interior. It is a lovely piece; when Rob delivered it, we were all thrilled.

180624 - chapel

“Friday’s event began with a Service in the University Chapel, which had been specially decorated for the occasion. The display included 77 crosses decorated by children at some of the schools where the 77 fallen had taught or lived, along with more poppies. Members of the Alumni Association also researched the names on memorial plaque, and had been able to trace a number of their descendants. Many of these family members were able to come to the event, including a relative who had travelled all the way from Australia! After the service there was a lunch and a chance to look around the exhibition, which included artefacts from the families and posters created by the Development and Alumni Relations Office.

“All in all, it was a lovely day. It really brought the 77 fallen to life; no longer just names listed on a memorial, but individuals with stories and families, and lives cut cruelly short. It was a real privilege to have been involved.”

This blog was originally posted on Elaine’s personal blog, Black Tulip.


Pat Ransome, UCAA Vice-Chair and Poppy Project co-ordinator, was also present at the event last Friday. Pat worked tirelessly with the Sewing Group to help produce the textile poppies, and also created fantastic poppy displays for the event. She said: “During the Chapel Service, which was also attended by relatives of the 77 fallen, the wreath of poppies was blessed. It was a poignant service to remember those who gave their lives and to be able to share the time with the families of the 77, together with younger family members, was indeed a privilege. Since we started the project two years ago, it has been a fascinating journey of discovery, one in which new contacts have been made, new friendships formed – not least those amongst the many poppy makers, to whom our thanks are extended.

“We have said before that the response to our poppy appeal was inspiring, with a wealth of unique and intricately crafted poppies, way beyond our initial goal of 77. The surplus of poppies we received were used as part of the floral displays on the day.

“A special thank you has to be shared with Elaine, who so skilfully and beautifully created the wreath – thank you, Elaine! To see the campaign chest when it was delivered to the Chapel by Rob, then to see it later with the wreath inside, was a very special moment – all we had sought to achieve had been realised!

“Thank you to all who helped towards the poppy project, who contributed poppies, who stitched, knitted, crocheted, embroidered, beaded, tie dyed, sugar starched – they are all the most fitting of tributes to the 77.”

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