Who was Werburgh?
Long ago, in Saxon days, lived a young woman and her name was Werburgh. She was born a princess, daughter of the powerful king of Mercia, King Wulfhere, and after she died she was made a saint. But have you ever heard of her?
Werburgh has strong associations with North Staffordshire and we want to find out more about her, and tell her remarkable story.
We hope you will join in and help us over the coming months...
Illustration by Sylvia Bull
Festival Stoke is working in partnership with Two Saints Way to develop the ‘Werburgh and the Wild Goose’ project.
The project was originally created as a multi-faceted heritage and creative-arts project to be included as part of the SOT2021 City of Culture application which sadly the city did not secure. Over the past year, however, there has been such an enthusiastic response to the ideas presented within the project outline, that the Festival Stoke team has decided we will endeavour to turn the proposal into a reality, and so we are putting in place plans and securing resources to enable this to happen.
Through researching and re-imagining the life of Werburgh, Saxon Princess and latterly Saint, and celebrating her connections with Stoke-on-Trent and north Staffordshire we want to reveal an inspirational and fresh foundational story for the area. The story will be developed through the participation of local adults and children working alongside local and national artists, writers, poets, sculptors, dancers. Supported by historians, archivists and archaeologists they will research Anglo-Saxon history, and the life of Werburgh and her contemporaries, delving into the life and times from 1,400 years ago. Stories will emerge and imaginations will be inspired as a range of creative representations, including illustrations, books, dance, music, sculpture, animations, retell and reimagine the story of Werburgh, Princess and Saint to be shared by present and future generations.
Images from the Werburgh Wanders part of our Arts Council England funded feasibility project in 2019.
Two Saints Way
The Two Saints Way is a long-distance pilgrimage route between the cathedral cities of Chester and Lichfield and runs through the heart of the city. The two saints of the way are St Chad, who is associated with Lichfield Cathedral and Saint Werburgh to whom Chester Cathedral is dedicated. Unusually for a long-distance walking route it journeys through a post-industrial urban place, winding its way alongside the canals, through parks and along streets of the city of Stoke-on-Trent.
The Two Saints Way route was created by David Pott supported by a team of local and regional people from a range of organisations, including Staffordshire University and Stoke-on-Trent City Council along with local volunteers, using existing rights of way and a guidebook was launched in 2015. It is maintained by Two Saints Way Project Ltd., with additional help from local co-ordinators who look after sections of the route. You can find out more about the Two Saints Way at their website.
Can you imagine a time when the River Trent meandered through the valley uninterrupted by dual-carriageways and canals, surrounded by grasslands and trees, where people lived simple lives in small communities? Werburgh’s is a story which reaches way back beyond the industrial revolution which is so strongly associated with the story of Stoke-on-Trent.
We are delighted to be working with artist and sculptor Kate Robinson from Glasgow on the Waymarkers research project, funded by Arts Council England. Festival artist Anne Kinnaird is leading on the participatory engagement and workshops within Stoke-on-Trent. Also involved are local artists Nicola Winstanley and Richard Redwin and Bristol-based illustrator Sylvia Bull. This project will provide the foundation for a creative trail along the Two Saints Way through the city.
Image: 'Woman, Man, Sun, Moon' by Kate Robinson