READING Council welcomed the announcement last week that the Bayeux Tapestry is to be displayed in UK for the first time.
However, residents and visitors to Reading won’t need to wait for the visit or travel all the way to Bayeux to view the tapestry, since a full size copy is already housed at Reading Museum.
Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, said: “Reading Museum is proud to be the home of Britain’s own famous full-size copy of the Bayeux Tapestry in its magnificent entirety.
“It is very exciting to have the original Bayeux Tapestry come to the UK. Reading’s own copy has stood in for it on many occasions. Countless people have enjoyed learning about the Norman conquest thanks to our copy and will no doubt look forward to seeing the original. We look forward to hearing more about the plans for its future visit.”
Cllr Hacker added: “I’d encourage people to stop by the museum for one of our free tapestry tours. The other great news is that from this summer they can also tie in their visit with a tour of the abbey founded by William the Conqueror’s son King Henry I, with the much anticipated reopening of Reading’s oldest gem, the Abbey Ruins, following a three year, £3.15 million conservation project.”
This faithful Victorian replica, created in 1885, is 70 metres long (the same as the original) and is largely a copy of breath-taking accuracy. However, if people play spot the difference between the two, eagle-eyed visitors will note a few interesting differences. Victorian modesty dictated that the nude male figures in the original tapestry have been clothed. The replica is also slightly wider as it includes a border with the names of all the embroiders who worked on it.
Every Saturday 2.15pm – 3.00pm people can enjoy the museum’s Bayeux Tapestry Tour (free, donations welcome). These guided tours led by museum staff are suitable for all ages and there is no need to book (unless you are in an organised group – please call 0118 937 3400 and ask to speak to our Education team).
The museum’s Bayeux gallery also explores the background and impact of the Norman Conquest, including the history of Saxon migration and Viking raids on the Reading area over the preceding 400 years.
Visit www.readingmuseum.org.uk/your-visit/permanent-galleries/bayeux-gallery to find out more.
Read the museum’s latest blog on the Bayeux Tapestry News: www.readingmuseum.org.uk/blog
Find out more about Reading’s Bayeux Tapestry at the dedicated website www.bayeuxtapestry.org.uk
History of Reading’s Bayeux Tapestry
It was the idea of Elizabeth Wardle, a skilled embroiderer and a member of the Leek Embroidery Society in Staffordshire. The copy is so good thanks to Elizabeth Wardle’s visits to Bayeux and the coloured pictured at the Kensington Museum (now V&A).
It was made by 35 skilled Victorian women embroiderers in 1885 and depicts the events leading up and includes to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Elizabeth’s aim was to make a full-sized and accurate replica of the Bayeux Tapestry “so that England should have a copy of its own”. This ambitious project was completed in just over a year.
Although they are referred to as tapestries, both Reading’s version and the medieval original are really embroideries; hand stitched using woollen yarns onto a linen backcloth.
The embroiderers went to great efforts to make the copy as accurate as possible – but there are a few uniquely Victorian additions. In the borders there are several naked men but in the Reading copy their modesty has been protected. The women of Leek were not responsible for the nudity censorship however – they had simply copied them from a set of photographs that had been ‘cleaned-up’ by the male staff at the South Kensington Museum.
The British copy is very well travelled. Before its permanent gallery was created at Reading Museum it was often loaned for exhibitions worldwide.
Former Mayor, Alderman Arthur Hill, bought the tapestry in 1895 after it was exhibited in the Town Hall at Reading. He then presented the tapestry as a gift to Reading where it was displayed in the Reading Museum and Art Gallery.
In 1993 a new Bayeux Tapestry gallery was opened in the Museum. The tapestry was carefully conserved and remounted as a continuous strip in a specially designed display case. For the first time for many years the entire tapestry could be seen in one gallery.
For more information on Reading Museum visit: www.readingmuseum.org.uk
Reading Abbey we will reopen and will be free to access from summer 2018, for more information on the on the project visit: www.readingabbeyquarter.org.uk