A Century of Wedding Gowns at Newcastle Cathedral

First published on: 16th February 2022

A stunning new exhibition celebrating changes in wedding gown fashions throughout the decades opened today in the historic setting of Newcastle Cathedral. Beautiful vintage bridal dresses and accessories, and faithful reproductions of famous Royal gowns take centre-stage at the exhibition, A Century of Wedding Gowns, which runs until Thursday 24 March.

Dispersed throughout the Cathedral, the exhibition explores how gown styles and materials have changed over the decades, including those borrowed and adapted in wartime. Each dress has been made with great skill and attention to detail, and has a story to tell about the bride, time, and place.

The exhibition juxtaposes handmade, homemade, borrowed, and rejuvenated gowns from past decades with the work of fashion designers Norman Hartnell and Bruce Oldfield. Their designs are reflected in several gowns, some being copies of the most well-known royal wedding gowns and tiaras, including Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

Other gowns have been donated or loaned by high profile figures or bridal salons. These include two gowns worn by the daughters of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland (on loan by Her Grace’s kind permission); local celebrity and Dragon’s Den star, Sara Davies’ wedding dress; a gown donated by Kleinfeld, New York – known for the TV programme Say Yes to the Dress; and a 1923 winter velvet wedding gown, handmade by Coco Chanel for a family friend.

For enthusiasts of Downton Abbey, there is a copy of the Crawleys’ Downton Tiara displayed with a wedding gown worn in Northumberland in 1898.

Collector and curator, Sunderland-based Kevin Thornhill, studied Art and Design at Manchester University with the intention of working in theatre wardrobe. After serving his time with London theatres, he returned to the North East to run his own wedding business. Now retired, he showcases his wedding gown collection to raise funds for charities. We’re pleased that our spacious Nave can now showcase it.

A Century of Wedding Gowns is a free exhibition. A small part of the exhibition that features some of the higher-profile dresses has a suggested donation of £5 per person.

Accompanying the exhibition is a series of special events. Pre-bookable guided tours led by collector Kevin Thornhill will take place on Saturday 26 February and Tuesday 8 March at 10am and 11am. Tickets cost £6 per person and are available here.

At a Wedding Gown Fashion Show on Thursday 10 March at 7:30pm, models will demonstrate a series of gowns, including some items not featured in the exhibition. This catwalk-style event will be accompanied by Kevin’s lively commentary. Tickets cost £15 per person, with a £25 option including VIP early entry and a drinks reception, and are available here.

On Saturday 19 March at 2pm, Newcastle Cathedral is offering couples an opportunity to come and renew their commitment to one another in a special Anniversary Celebration Service. This service, full of traditional hymns and readings, will have at its heart a chance for couples to stand together and repeat those words – perhaps with a few less nerves than first time around!

The service will last around 45 minutes and is open to everyone, not just those who have been married in a church. Couples wishing to attend or to renew their commitment at this service, should book in advance here. A ‘Service, Tour, and Afternoon Tea’ package is available at a cost of £19.50 and places can be booked via the same web address.

To find out more about the exhibition and for booking links to attend any of the accompanying events, please visit: their website  or contact the Cathedral on 0191 232 1939 or at office@newcastlecathedral.org.uk

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