MEMBERS of a secluded order of nuns have spoken of their pride at being able to visit a North-East cultural centre to view an exhibition of extraordinary artworks by one of their own.

The group of ten nuns, from Stanbrook Abbey, at Wass, in North Yorkshire, travelled to Ushaw Historic House, near Durham, to see the paintings, woodcuts, prints, textiles, and carvings made by Dame Werburg Welch.

Dame Werburg was a member of the order for almost 80 years, until her death in 1990, and her talents had remained largely hidden until the exhibition was staged at Ushaw from April 6.

After joining Stanbrook Abbey at the age of 20, Dame Werburg began using her artistic talents to express her faith, producing dozens of remarkable works for her order.

The Stanbrook sisters, who rarely leave their community more than once a year, spoke of their appreciation at seeing the entire collection of Dame Werburg’s work displayed in one place for the first time.

Sister Josephine, Prioress of Stanbrook Abbey, said: “It’s just wonderful to see it all together. Very often we would just see one vestment at a time, when it was used in our traditions. You can’t help but marvel at the design, and the intricacy of the details is just so exquisite.

“It’s wonderful that Ushaw are displaying them for everyone to see. I love it, it’s very fitting. Who spends the time making anything like this anymore?”

Another of the nuns, Sister Julian, who joined the Stanbrook community in 1970 and was taught by Dame Werburg, remembers her fondly.

She said: “Dame Werburg was an amazing person, and quite a character. She was a real inspiration to me when I first entered the community. Seeing all of her work now is absolutely incredible, it feels like she’s in the room.”

Claire Marsland, Ushaw’s curator, said: “We’re delighted the exhibition has been so well received. It has connected with such a broad audience; not just people who are interested in the religious tradition, but also people who appreciate the beautiful design and artistic merits of Dame Werburg’s work.

“It’s been a pleasure to welcome members of her community to Ushaw for this viewing.”

Due to the exhibition’s popularity, Ushaw has announced it will extend The Artistic and Spiritual Life of Dame Werburg Welch until Tuesday, September 3.