Conservation of Guildhall Tapestry Begins

Removing the Tapestry

The stunning tapestry in St. Mary’s Guildhall is believed to be the oldest tapestry in the UK still located in the place it was designed for. It dates back to the turn of the 16th Century.

The tapestry has recently been removed temporarily as part of steps to ensure its long-term preservation.

Textile specialists visited the Guildhall recently when they removed the Tapestry to carry out conservation treatment on the artefact. It is also hoped that a study of the back of the tapestry might help to answer some questions about changes made to the tapestry over the years.

St Mary’s Guildhall is widely recognised as one of the finest medieval guildhalls in the country, which dates back to 1352 and miraculously survived the blitz of 1940 which devastated much of the city centre.

The tapestry is approximately nine metres across and three metres high and was specially woven for the space in the Guildhall. It has been subject to visual inspections in the past and was comprehensively conserved at the Textile Conservation Centre in Hampton Court Palace in the late 70s, early 80s.

Councillor David Welsh, Cabinet Member for Heritage in Coventry, said: “I’d really like to compliment the conservators for their careful and precise attention to detail when removing the giant Tapestry. It’s fascinating seeing it up close, the intricate work that went into weaving the material is unbelievable.

“It looks absolutely stunning, and as an artefact that is more than 500 years old you really understand its importance to the city’s rich heritage.

“As a Council we have helped secure external investments amounting to £5.6m to breathe new life into the Guildhall. There is extensive work underway to sensitively restore and refurbish many important parts of the Guildhall and part of this will be to showcase the Tapestry in a way that visitors can access, while preserving the item for many years to come.

“The medieval kitchen is also being restored alongside other improvements, so it will mean that people will be able to get a fantastic insight into the history of the city once the venue reopens.”

Once conservation work is carried out the tapestry will then be displayed with a new casing, and in a way that visitors to the Guildhall will be able to see much more clearly. New interpretation, including a digital tour and interactive activities are also being developed to share the story of the tapestry with Coventry residents and visitors to the city and showcase the beautiful artwork.

The conservation and redisplay of the tapestry has been made possible with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The works at the Guildhall are part of the £5.6m redevelopment of St Mary’s Guildhall supported through the Cultural Capital Investment Fund, which is resourced from Coventry City Council, Arts Council England, and the Government’s Getting Building Fund – through Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership. The Coventry Society is represented on the Stakeholders Group for this project.

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