Heritage matters to group keeping traditions alive

GMDT's Frank Rescigno gets a lesson in mat making'from the ladies of the Woodhorn Matters group.
GMDT's Frank Rescigno gets a lesson in mat making'from the ladies of the Woodhorn Matters group.

MEMBERS of a group which is helping to keep alive an age-old Northumbrian craft are working to create a unique tribute to one of Morpeth’s most famous sons.

Woodhorn Matters meets twice a week in Morpeth to learn and develop skills in proggy and hooky mat making.

Generations of Northumberland womenfolk, particularly in mining communities, used cut up scraps, old clothing or any material at hand to make their own mats as floor coverings for their family homes.

The Matters group, however, has developed the craft to a new art form by designing and creating colourful and imaginative wall hangings.

Its latest project is a wall hanging depicting the life, times and work of botanist William Turner that will later this year be unveiled in the recently refurbished Butter Market in Morpeth’s Town Hall.

Born in Morpeth in 1508, Turner became known as the ‘Father of English botany’ through his work and study of plants and their medicinal uses culminating in his publication of A New Herball – the first book to be written on plants in English including reliable descriptions of the plants themselves and the places where they grew.

His work has been commemorated in Morpeth through the creation of the William Turner Garden in Carlisle Park and the group members plan to add their own unique tribute with their wall hanging.

Their as yet uncompleted work will be on show at the Greater Morpeth Development Trust’s (GMDT) annual family event – Picnic in the Park – on Sunday.

The theme GMDT has adopted for the event is Northumbrian Art and the Matters ladies will be there to invite and help ‘picnickers’ to make their own individual material flowers and herbs to add to the border of their main hooky mat design.

Members have researched the types of flowers and herbs Turner would have known in his day so that they can be all included in the design.

“Picnic in the Park will be a unique opportunity for local people – particularly children – to make their own personal contribution to a project that will mark the work of William Turner in a very special way,” said Frank Rescigno, GMDT’s Arts and Cultural Director.

The free event takes place between noon and 4pm in Carlisle Park when there will be pony rides, face painting, a magician and story teller, willow weaving, music courtesy of Northumbrian Water Ellington Colliery Band and a bouncy castle.

GMDT manages the activities, which are also being supported by Northumberland County Council, Morpeth Town Council and Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade.