Caroline Farrer obituary

Other lives: Ecclesiastical embroiderer whose work graces many churches and cathedrals

My friend Caroline Farrer, who has died aged 78, was an ecclesiastical embroiderer whose work graces churches and cathedrals in Britain and abroad, including the US, Australia and the Netherlands. In the UK, several priests are fortunate to own stoles created by Caroline, and many churches have exquisite vestments, altar frontals and banners done by her own hand. Her technical skill was superb and it was fascinating to watch her embroider with quiet expertise and total assurance of her own ability.

Notable examples of her creations in Britain are the rose bushes on the canopy of the shrine of St Alban in St Albans Cathedral and Abbey church, and the goldwork on the sleeves of the ceremonial robe of the vice chancellor of Oxford University.

It was fascinating to watch Caroline Farrer embroider with quiet expertise
It was fascinating to watch Caroline Farrer embroider with quiet expertise Photograph: None

She was the only child of the Rev Austin Farrer, theologian and later warden of Keble College, Oxford, and his wife Katharine (nee Newton), a novelist. Caroline’s parents were close friends with members of the Inklings, the group of Oxford writers that included CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien and who met to talk about literature, but Caroline’s talents lay in a different direction. After leaving the Rudolf Steiner school, in Kent, Caroline attended St Margaret’s Convent in East Grinstead, West Sussex, where she was taught the exquisite techniques used in ecclesiastical embroidery.

When the Sisters of St Margaret were forced to close their workshop in 1970, Caroline moved to Oxford and worked as an associate at the embroidery workshop of the Sisters of All Saints, first at London Colney in Hertfordshire, in Birmingham from 1973, then from 1976 at their house in Cowley, Oxford. In 1989 she also joined the Cathedral Embroidery Centre at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. From then on, she worked in both venues concurrently.

The CS Lewis Society based in the US sometimes entertained Caroline when they held their conventions in Oxford and she enjoyed reminiscing with them about her father’s circle of friends. She also loved to travel and was a skilled photographer.

Caroline was a quiet, assured person whose deep Christian faith shaped her life and her work. She had strong views on what she considered right and wrong, and if something met with her disapproval a firm, “I don’t think so, thank you very much,” was her invariable comment.

She liked to read one of her father’s sermons every night before sleeping, and enjoyed pilgrimages and retreats and the special services that mark the Christian year. She was a regular worshipper at St Mary Magdalen Church in Oxford, where she had been baptised, and her requiem was held there.

She is survived by her cousin Nick, and his wife, Jenny.

Suellen Pedley

The GuardianTramp

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