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Centuries-old tradition at christening

PUBLISHED: 11:52 28 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:53 30 June 2010

DRESSED in white, young Dylan, quiet and uncomplaining, was tenderly carried to his christening little aware of a family tradition he was continuing.

Aged four months, his frame was almost hidden by the long, pristine gown that clothed him - a gown worn by six previous generations of family members when they too were christened.

DRESSED in white, young Dylan, quiet and uncomplaining, was tenderly carried to his christening little aware of a family tradition he was continuing.

Aged four months, his frame was almost hidden by the long, pristine gown that clothed him - a gown worn by six previous generations of family members when they too were christened.

Dylan Kai Wilkes, who was at the centre of the ceremony in St Nicholas' Church, Bradwell, was the latest in a long line to wear the christening dress that is estimated to stretch back centuries.

Its current guardian, and great-grandmother to Dylan, is 80-year-old Beryl Barber of Bradwell, who unveiled the dress for the occasion earlier this month.

She said: “It's queer, because when

you get it out, it just feels as if there's someone behind you looking over your shoulder. You can almost feel the history there.” However, when Beryl found the gown, made from cotton voile and handmade lace, in the 1950s while clearing out her mother's house, she had little idea about its past.

“It was all packed away in a drawer in my mother's bedroom and wrapped up in a pillow case. It was well rolled up and because of the war and lack of babies it hadn't been out in a long time and I had no idea it was so special. However, my two aunts came over and told me about its past, so when I looked again I couldn't believe my eyes. It's an amazing piece of dress-making and it's been at every christening I can remember.”

Beryl's earliest memories of the dress are as a three-year-old at her brother Tony's christening at a Methodist church in Gorleston, which had to go ahead early Sunday afternoon because her uncle, a trawlerman, had to work in the evening.

And it is after years of tracing the family tree that she thinks she knows the creator - her own great-great-grandmother Sarah Sharman, who would have made the garment in the mid 19th century.

Beryl described how the gown was worn by cousins who have now spread across the world, including a Canadian soldier with the Black Watch who returned during the second world war, and can recall it being used by 16 members of the family since she took care of it.

Soon, another generation will take on the responsibility of caring for the item, as Beryl passes it on to her niece, Wendy Jordan, 51.

Wendy said: “I would be delighted to look after it. I just think it's a lovely family treasure and hopefully we will be able to get it properly analysed by experts for dating.”

She added she would carry on storing it in the way which has served it so well over the last half century - wrapped in tissue paper in an old cardboard flower box and away from daylight.

And it was soon-to-be married Maria Lambert, 25, of Gorleston, who was most proud that her son Dylan, whose dad is Chris Wilkes, also 25, should be the gown's latest recipient.

She said: “He was as good as

gold throughout the whole thing and

on top behaviour, and it was great to

see the family there. I was christened in the gown, so it was lovely to him wearing it.”

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