The Downham Banner Story

We are talking about Downham and surrounding villages in the period 1785 to 1913. The lifespan of the Downham benevolent Society Downham little changed in outward appearance since those days apart from metalled roads and traffic .

The story begins

The story for us starts in the parish Church of St Leonard. Behind the organ there was a box .

The mysterious box

The box was about ten feet long by 6 inches square. A box not opened very often and which contained a spectacular artefact.

Inside the box

The banner of the Downham Benevolent Society in commemoration of the society’s centenary in 1885.

Time for action

This is the last outing the banner had when it was a part of our Church exhibition held in 2011 to mark the centenary of the rebuilding of the church. At this point it was agreed that it was time to conserve the banner or accept that it would fall to pieces.

Not in the best of health

A condition survey was commissioned from the conservation department of the Peoples’ History Museum in Manchester. The report described the banner as silk hand stitched with silk thread with a painted image of the good Samaritan and text with silver mantling and damaged. Described as soiled, faded and fragile due to age.

The Condition Report

Largely intact but beginning to split at stress points and due to being rolled too tightly. Previous repairs done with adhesive tape were frowned upon. The painted areas were dry and in good condition but with a bloom. The silver mantling was blackened suggesting a high silver or silver gilt content.

A Plan Starts To Form

Recommendations as to future treatment were made the one ultimately chosen was to cost about £9,000 plus vat. Led by the PCC who were the default owners a decision was made to go ahead with a conservation and presentation project A project team of volunteers representing village life: church village hall WI School and both Downham and Twiston and the history group put together an application to the NW Heritage Lottery Fund.

Lottery Application

The steering group meet at the Assheton Arms – formerly the George and Dragon - the official meeting place of the Benevolent Society for 130 years. An application was made to achieve the following.
Firstly the conservation and display of the banner in a museum. Secondly to research the history of the Benevolent society and the friendly society movement. Thirdly there would be interpretation and involvement of the public including a partnership with the local primary school.

Project Group

2017

The Banner Steering Group and members of the History Group visited Wardle Museum , Rochdale in April, 2017 in search of more information about Joseph Skerrett, Banner Maker, they were also shown Greenhill Chapel where they saw another example of Skerrett’s work.

Project Group
Project Group

The Banner starts its journey

Pupils from the local primary School were there to send off the banner on its journey to The Peoples History Museum in Manchester who were going to do the conservation.

Downham Banner

Mini banners

To celebrate the banner going to Manchester for conservation pupils from the local school, Chatburn C of E created their own mini banners in the spirit and design of the Downham Banner with the theme “Go thou and do likewise”.

Visit to the Conservation Lab.

There is a commitment from the school to have an annual project around the Banner, Friendly Societies and the parable of the Good Samaritan. The 2017 project was a visit to PHM in Manchester to see the Banner and take part in an interactive production about the Peterloo Massacre. The school also visited the Lab. in 2018 with members of the Project Group.

Project Group

Historical Research

There exists a copy of the 1901 Rule Book plus some pages from the 1824 and 1847 Subs Books. Local historian Chris Topping used this data to produce an analysis of the membership, this in turn has been used to create a searchable database. Chris also compiled a comprehensive history of the Society. The Banner maker Skerrett of Bury was also researched.

Downham Banner

Working with UCLAN

The banner group, working with the senior tutor Jack Southern from the University of Central Lancashire, briefed a group of three students on our need for some written material to accompany the exhibition of the banner. The students produced a pdf booklet which can be downloaded here

Clitheroe Museum

The Banner is now installed and on display at Clitheroe Castle Museum. The banner looks magnificent in its conserved state in its specially refurbished gallery surrounded by interpretive displays.

Project Group

The Future

Five information hubs as well as the main exhibit at  Clitheroe Castle Museum at The Parish  Church of St Leonard Downham,  Chatburn C of E Primary School, Clitheroe Library, Downham Village Hall , and Downham Tourist Information  Centre  will be equipped with an information banner, booklets and cards.  In addition the Parish Church and Chatburn Primary School etc  as before about the quarter sized banners and the future research etc

Downham Banner
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