Seven years and thousands of stitches in the making, York’s equivalent of the Bayeux Tapestry is finally going on show. Mary Ann Dearlove has the story sewn up
Finished at last, the Battle of Fulford Tapestry goes on display at Barclays Bank, York, this week. The five-metre-long embroidery worked in the same stitches, and in the same style as the Bayeux Tapestry, has taken seven years to complete.
The small team of embroiderers met for two hours each week to work the historic stitches on linen with naturally dyed wools at various locations in York the last of which was the Merchant Adventurers Hall.
The original idea for this piece of work came from Charles Jones who lived in Fulford and was incensed by plans to build a housing estate over the battle field obliterating all trace of this important battle. The Battle of Fulford is often called the forgotten battle.
Everyone knows about William of Normandy arriving in 1066 and defeating King Harold at Hastings, and most know that King Harold had to march his army all the way down after defeating Harald Hardrada of Norway at Stamford Bridge, but few know of the first battle of 1066, here in Fulford. Harald Hardrada invaded with 200 ships of warriors to be met by Earl Morcar’s men who he defeated at Germany Beck.
This is the subject of the tapestry. The first panel depicts the Norse king burning Scarborough and arriving up the river at Riccall and then follows the battle through to its bloody conclusion when King Harald and Earl Tostig arrive at the Gates of York to receive the keys to the city.
The icons and designs have been taken from historic sources such as the Bayeux Tapestry and the Victoria and Albert Museum library resources and then the images have been combined to produce the design you see today. The Yorkshire wool has been dyed using the same dyes that were employed in the Bayeux Tapestry and the plant materials have been gathered or specially grown. Experts from Rural Arts and the Guild of Embroidery helped research the forgotten stitching techniques and provided training for the team.
Seven years ago there was some funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund but now the tapestry is supported by selling merchandise and donations. Now it is finished we need a proper stand that will allow the the tapestry to travel to events and go on short term display within museums and galleries without the locations incurring significant curatorial costs.
Barclays Bank, Parliament Street, York have kindly invited us to display The Battle of Fulford Tapestry as part of the Viking Festival next week. It will be on show on Thursday, February 21 from 3pm to 7pm and Friday and Saturday during bank opening hours. Please come and see us!
- More information on the Fulford Tapestry website