Big stitch-up:

Al­most 1,000 years af­ter the Bayeux Ta­pes­try was cre­ated, a se­quel is tak­ing shape

Norfolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Rowan Man­tell PHO­TOS: Denise Bradley

How a group of skilled sew­ers are cre­at­ing Nor­wich Cas­tle’s own Bayeux Ta­pes­try

This is the story be­yond Bayeux, af­ter Wil­liam con­quered. An as­ton­ish­ing new Nor­wich ta­pes­try, cre­ated by vol­un­teers in the style of its fa­mous pre­de­ces­sor, picks up the story af­ter Wil­liam the Con­queror’s 1066 vic­tory over slaugh­tered ar­row-in-the-eye King Harold.

The vi­brant fig­ures and colours, the car­toon-strip sto­ry­telling, the age-old Sax­ons v Nor­mans con­flict acted out with knights on pranc­ing horses, bat­tle-lines bristling with spears, flimsy boats danc­ing across the Chan­nel, sturdy cas­tles, and sol­diers feast­ing, trav­el­ling, fight­ing and falling, all set within a bor­der of strut­ting farm­yard and myth­i­cal an­i­mals, could at first glance be the world-fa­mous Bayeux ta­pes­try. But in the very first frame there is a pic­ture of Nor­wich Cas­tle.

Fran Sales had never tried em­broi­dery when she vol­un­teered to be part of the team cre­at­ing this, 1,000-years-on, 18 me­tres long, se­quel to the world-fa­mous Bayeux Ta­pes­try.

Now her panel of em­broi­dery is the first in a huge car­toon-strip like se­ries, which will stretch around three sides of the lav­ish re­con­structed Nor­man king’s bed­cham­ber when Nor­wich Cas­tle Keep re­opens next year.

The Nor­man-style needle­work be­gins with Wil­liam the Con­queror and his ar­chi­tect dis­cussing plans for a new cas­tle – in Nor­wich. The story

con­tin­ues with the ar­rival back in Eng­land of East Anglian hero Here­ward the Wake, who goes on to lead a re­bel­lion against the Nor­man in­vaders. Then the last pan­els re­count the fi­nal se­ri­ous re­sis­tance to the con­quest, with the ‘re­volt of the earls’ in­clud­ing Emma, wife of the Earl of East Anglia, de­fend­ing Nor­wich Cas­tle against the king’s army.

Just like the orig­i­nal ta­pes­try, this is ac­tu­ally an em­broi­dery, and it is so faith­ful to its source ma­te­rial that the 40-plus vol­un­teer stitch­ers have had to learn a tech­nique which has prob­a­bly not been used for cen­turies.

‘In the very first frame there is a pic­ture of Nor­wich Cas­tle’

For Fran, all the stitches were new. She turned out to have a real ap­ti­tude and took charge of the first of the 13 pan­els. First, all the stitch­ers had to learn the Bayeux Stitch and prac­tise on small pieces of ma­te­rial un­til they were ready to tackle the ac­tual ta­pes­try. Fran has put 750 hours’ work into her panel, with an­other 100 hours from col­leagues. But all the sam­ple pieces are not go­ing to waste. Wall hang­ings, ban­ners, cush­ions, and dec­o­ra­tions for the beds and thrones are also be­ing cre­ated by the vol­un­teer em­broi­der­ers and vis­i­tors will be able to han­dle some of the sam­ples to get a bet­ter idea of how they were cre­ated.

The first panel of the mod­ern Bayeux-style ta­pes­try be­ing made at Nor­wich Cas­tle us­ing the Bayeux Stitch.

Fran Sales, the main stitcher of the first panel of the mod­ern Bayeuxstyl­e ta­pes­try be­ing made at Nor­wich Cas­tle, with the panel.

Work has started on the sec­ond panel of the ta­pes­try. LEFT: Vol­un­teers prac­tis­ing their em­broi­dery for Nor­wich’s new Bayeux-style ta­pes­try

Em­broi­dered thank you to the Her­itage Fund for fund­ing the Cas­tle Keep project

De­tail from the ta­pes­try

ABOVE: Vol­un­teers study the first panel of the mod­ern Bayeux-style ta­pes­try be­ing made in Nor­folk RIGHT: Wil­liam the Con­queror and his ar­chi­tect dis­cuss the build­ing of Nor­wich Cas­tle in the first panel of the Nor­wich Friends Ta­pes­try

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