Sunday, June 18, 2006

The gardens at Stoke Edith

William Sheldon set up a tapestry workshop in his manor house at Barcheston in 1570 with the aim of starting a local industry to rival the tapestry makers of Flanders. The Sheldon tapestry workshop produced maps of English counties: this detail of the map of Warwickshire shows the Sheldon house at Weston (above the windmill). The V&A has a fragment showing what is now South West London. They are charming to look at (Horace Walpole thought so when he bought them in 1781), although landscape elements are admittedly fairly limited. Whilst none of the other Sheldon workshop tapestries in the V&A depict pure landscapes, they are all rich in natural detail, like the verdure in a tapestry of Paris giving the golden apple, and the rural settings of a tapestry showing a huntsman and a valance with country scenes.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Another type of landscape-related tapestry at the V&A is the Stoke Edith embroidery (above), showing the formal gardens of a house in Herefordshire. There is a wonderfully gushing description of it here.

The V&A currently have a textile artist in residence, Sue Lawty, who draws inspiration from landscape and natural materials, e.g. Terra (2004). She has recently begun making stone drawings – collages of stone suspended on the wall which resemble tapestries, one of which is currently on display. You can follow her progress on her blog.

Update May 2015
Looking back at this post I see most of the V&A links no longer work, leaving it a bit threadbare.  So I'll add in here something on another of the Sheldon maps I read recently, intrigued by the headline 'Map of Worcestershire from 1590s describes mysterious event in the hills near ‘The Worldesend’.
'A 400-year-old tapestry map that depicts a mysterious event that happened among the villages, streams and windmills of Elizabethan Worcestershire is to go on public display for the first time in centuries at Oxford’s Bodleian library.  Exactly what happened, somewhere north of Kynaston and south of Edgbaston, in the 1590s remains a mystery, but the tapestry’s woven text is emphatic: the hilly landscape, near a village ominously named as “The Worldesend”, “was dryven downe by the removyng of the ground”.  “Earthquake? Landslide? Quarrying? We just don’t know,” says Nick Millea, map librarian at the Bodleian. “It’s one of the many things in this map I’d love to follow up one day.” ... The mysterious “dryven downe” land is unlikely to be invention. Given that it was made when few people had ever seen even a paper map – Millea says that Sheldon would certainly have had to explain to most visitors what a map was and how to read it – the glowing landscape is remarkably accurate. ... One of its many delights is the text: one section says, of a county still famous for its orchards: “hear goodly orchards planted are in fruite which doo abounde. Thine eye wolde make thin hart rejoyce to see so pleasant grounde.”'

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