29th Jun, 2022

Rare 16th century tapestry at one of Coventry's historic gems assessed by textile conservation specialist

Catherine Vonledebur 25th Sep, 2020 Updated: 30th Sep, 2020

A TEXTILE conservation expert has inspected the stunning 500-year-old tapestry at St Mary’s Guildhall to see if it is in need of further conservation work.

The rare 16th century tapestry is located in the Great Hall and although the last visual inspections was in 2019, no major conservation work has been carried out for around 40 years. Previous inspections were all carried out with the display case glass intact, but to enable a proper condition survey to be undertaken, the glass frontage to the display case was removed with the support of a specialist contractor.

Specialist textile conservator Wendy Toulson said: “The tapestry, which was clearly specially woven for this space in the Guildhall, was probably made around the turn of the 16th Century. It’s in fairly good condition largely because it was comprehensively conserved at the Textile Conservation Centre in Hampton Court Palace in the late 70s, early 80s.

“The main purpose of my visit was to look at the way in which it’s displayed and, in particular, to see if there are improvements that can be made, especially to the display case, so that people can see this amazing jewel more clearly.

“This may include possibly modifying the glass, or the way in which the tapestry is fixed into the back of the display case so that people have an even better chance to see it.”

Following the survey visit funded, the next step will be the drawing up of a conservation report or proposal detailing the extent of conservation works needed, whether the tapestry may need to be cleaned or have some other expert conservation carried out to assist its long-term preservation.

The survey work was funded as part of the overall National Lottery Heritage Fund Bid for St Mary’s Guildhall. If successful, the actual conservation works would start in the new year.

Multi-million pound plans are currently underway to transform the building into a major national tourist destination for Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture in 2021. It was described by TV historian Dr Jonathan Foyle as one of the finest surviving examples of a medieval Guildhall in the UK. Mary, Queen of Scots, and Shakespeare are among the site’s most prominent historic visitors.

Coun Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, said: “This stunning tapestry is over 500 years old and it needs to take pride of place in this fantastic space for future generations to come and enjoy.

“As people will know, over the next few months there’s a lot of work planned to go on at the Guildhall and showcasing the tapestry is a key piece of that work.

“With the planned opening-up of the fantastic medieval kitchen alongside other improvements, our ambition is to have somewhere Coventry residents and visitors can all be proud of.

“It’s no longer Coventry’s best kept secret. Our ambition is to have an attraction that people from across the country and indeed all over the world know about and want to visit.”

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