This page is part of our project "Revealing St Alban's Hidden Heritage" supported by a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to players of The National Lottery.
Historic banners in the sanctuary between 1892 and 1897:
From left, Guild of St George, St Patrick (old), St Alban
From left, Lamb of God, St Columba, "Emmanuel"
The Banner of St Alban
We believe that the the central 'mandorla' or almond-shaped panel with the figure of St Alban was part of a banner made for the opening of the first temporary Mission Church of St Alban on Leopold Street in 1865.
The description by a reporter who attended the church on its first Sunday, 17 th September 1865, included "a large flag, which had upon it the figure of St. Alban" (The Birmingham Daily Post 18 September 1865).
We can see part of that that "large flag" on the right of a photograph showing the temporary church decorated for harvest in 1867:
And more clearly in the sanctuary of the present Church around 1895 and 1905:
The polluted air of Birmingham was not kind to fabrics and between the two pictures above the silk of the background part of the banner had been renewed. According S. Alban’s Magazine for July 1899 : “St. Alban’s Banner has been re-mounted, the silk and other materials being given by the girls attending the Sunday Afternoon Bible Classes.” Although the design is broadly the same, the renewed banner has a broader cross and is suspended from the cross-piece in a different way.
The banner looks the same in a street procession in the 1910s:
But in 1913 it needed to be renewed again: “We have all noticed with sorrow that our dear old Banner of S. Alban, has long been almost dropping to pieces. Happily the figure itself is the best part, and with some cleaning and small repairs, will last for many years longer. So Mrs. Hefford has kindly undertaken to mount it on a new piece of silk for S. Alban’s Day. We had feared that it was gone altogether beyond repair; but we are heartily glad that we shall have our old S. Alban back in renewed beauty.” ( S. Alban’s Magazine, June 1913.)
Little detail is visible in this picture of the banner in the procession in 1915, but the design of the banner seems the same as before.
The Banner was renovated again in 1926. S. Alban’s Magazine August 1926: “We are most grateful to Mrs. Hefford for renovating the S. Alban’s Banner. Nobody seems to know how many years it has been in existence, it appears in a photograph, taken in 1890, but I believe it is a good deal older than that, the banner has been partly remade and repaired from time to time, but it is still the same, but I cannot say how long it will be before the figure in the centre proves to be past repair.”
By 1956, the figure of St Alban had been remounted on the much smaller banner that we have today:
St Alban is portrayed as a Roman soldier holding a martyr's palm in his right hand and resting his left hand on a shield. Although we believe that the figure is from the original banner of 1865, it has undergone substantial repair over the years. In 2019 the banner was conserved by Wendy Toulson and the mandorla was protected with a fine nylon mesh.
The banner of St Alban after conservation
Through most of the year this banner can bee seen hanging in the Sanctuary, although during the solemn seasons of Advent and Lent when the decoration of the church is reduced, we remove the banners from public display in the church.
The Banner of St Patrick
The Banner of St Patrick
This banner came from our former daughter church of St Patrick's Church on Frank Street, closed in 1964. There was an earlier banner of St Patrick, seen first in the photograph at the head of this page of banners in St Alban's Church and later in a photograph of the interior of St Patrick's Church. We do not know the date that it was replaced by the present banner of St Patrick. In St Patrick’s Magazine for March 1913 the vicar wrote: “St. Patrick’s Banner. I am sorry to say that I have received very little towards this yet, the smallest donation will be thankfully accepted.” So presumably the banner already needed replacement at this time, but there seems to be no report of a new banner being completed and it is also possible that the original banner was destroyed in 1940 when incendiary bombs caused a fire that destroyed the organ and damaged the choir stalls of St Patrick's.
The Old Banner of St Patrick
The Banner of Our Lady
Our present Banner of Our Lady dates to 1925, when in July S. Alban's Magazine reported: “You will also have seen the Banner of our Lady which appeared for S. Alban’s Day. Our thanks to those who have given material, money and labour.”
However, it repalced an earlier banner, which was already in need of renewal in 1913, when in July, after the renewal of the banner of St Alban, our magazine reported: "We want new Banners of the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady. The old ones have been good in their time, but Birmingham is not kind to embroidery, and they have got very dirty and faded. It is impossible to do anything which will make then really good again, and they must somehow be replaced by new ones."
By 2019 the banner was in poor shape with the pale blue silk background faded and disintegrating, and the original embroidery and fringes were remounted on new silk by Wendy Toulson.
Hangs in the Chancel
The Blessed Sacrament Banner
Also known as the Adoremus or Ecce Agnus Dei banner, this banner used to be carried in processions of the Blessed Sacrament at Corpus Christi. It is now to frail to use in procession and is hung in the entrance to St. Patrick's Room, our church hall.
A Procession in Conybere Street with the Blessed Sacrament Banner.
Former Banner of St Columba