Dean, Beryl (1911-2001)

Beryl Dean, 1911-2001. Beryl Dean, 1911-2001.

Beryl Dean (1911-2001) was an influential English embroideress, who helped to revolutionise ecclesiastical embroidery in the UK and elsewhere. She was married to Wilfred Phillips (died 1993). Dean graduated from the Royal School of Needlework (London) in 1932. She then went to the Bromley School of Art (London), graduating in dress design and leatherwork.

She began a teaching career in textile design and at the same time opened a couture clothing studio, where she designed costumes and sets for, among others, ballet companies. She lectured at Eastbourne School of Art from 1939 until 1946, when she took a post as lecturer at King's College, Newcastle upon Tyne. Here she became involved in the Needlework Development Scheme, which was set up to encourage embroidery in Scottish schools. Between 1951-52 she was the head of the Royal School of Needlework.

It was around 1952 that she became interested in ecclesiastical embroidery, after noticing that it was almost entirely unaffected by developments in other areas of twentieth century design. To help rectify this situation, in 1955, Dean established an Ecclesiastical Embroidery Course at the Hammersmith School of Art, which she taught for more than twenty years until his retirement in 1976. During her time at the Royal School, Dean became known for her gold thread embroidery, in particular the or nué technique. Dean undertook, for example, commissions in this and related techniques for a banner for Chelmsford Cathedral, a cope for Guildford Cathedral, and frontals for Chelmsford Cathedral, St Margaret's in King's Lynn, St Martin's in Dorking, Surrey, and St Giles' in Northbrook, Illinois (USA).

In 1968, Dean was involved in organising an exhibition about contemporary ecclesiastical embroidery in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral in London. The interest generated by the display led to the formation of ecclesiastical embroidery groups all over Britain and a revival of various metal thread techniques. Later in 1984, for example, she completed an embroidery entitled The Head of Christ, which made use of the or nué technique. The piece was later put on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), along with her 1934 piece The Madonna.

Some of her most famous creations include the Hammersmith Cope (1958-1968), gifted to St. Paul’s Cathedral (UK); five large panels for St George's Chapel, Windsor (made between 1969 and 1974); the mitre, stole and and Jubilee cope for the Bishop of London (1977), and the Enthronement Cope for the Archbishop of Canterbury (1980). Among her numerous awards she was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1975 for her services to embroidery in the Church. At her funeral service, the Venerable Peter Delaney, Archdeacon of London, wore a stole depicting the Resurrection, which was one of the last embroideries carried out by Beryl Dean.

Beryl Dean’s main publications include:

  • Ecclesiastical Embroidery (1958; London: T. Batsford)
  • Church Needlework (1961; London: T. Batsford)
  • Ideas for Church Embroidery (1968; London: T. Batsford)
  • Creative Applique (1970; New York: Watson-Guptil)
  • Embroidery for Religion and Ceremonial (1981; London: T. Batsford)
  • Church Embroidery (1982; London: Mowbry)
  • Designing Ecclesiastical Stitched Textiles (1993; Tunbridge Wells: Burns & Oates/Search Press)


Digital source of illustration (retrieved 22 June 2016).

SA and GVE

Last modified on Monday, 31 October 2016 18:04
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