Hardwick Hall – Textile History Come Alive

August 4, 2008 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Embroidery, Museums and Exhibitions | Leave a comment
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Hardwick Hall

Hardwick Hall

Hardwick Hall was one of the places I absolutely wanted to see during my trip to the UK. As a short recap, here’s the quote from their website again:

Inside the atmospheric Hall you can see Europe’s finest collection of 16th- and 17th-century embroideries and tapestries. The award-winning ‘Threads of Time’ exhibition tells visitors the story of Bess and the collections in the Hall.

And no, they weren’t exaggerating a bit. Most of the walls that aren’t glass are covered by tapestries. Not only in the rooms, on the staircases, too! I really had to remind myself to stop gaping a couple of times. The “Threads of Time” exhibition is situated in a few rooms on the ground floor. It isn’t big, but there’s lots to see and quite a few explanations next to each piece, so you can actually learn a few things about what you’re seeing. The needlework exhibited is excellent, and it’s very seldom that you see so many pieces in one place that have not fallen apart or faded completely. The highlight of the exhibition is the Tobit table carpet, which has been restored over a period of 18 years. You can read a bit more about it (and see a few pictures), if you scroll down a bit on this site. In the room were the carpet is shown there are a few different folders. The one I found most interesting tells about the conservation history of the carpet. If you have the time, sitting down and having a look into some of the folders available is well worthwile. One I looked at describes the day-to-day and year-to-year measures that are taken to protect the textiles at Hardwick Hall from the effects of light and almost 100000 visitors a year.

Another one told the story of a particular piece of modern-day embroidery. 2008 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Bess of Hardwick, the fascinating woman who we owe Hardwick Hall and its textile collections to. A group of volunteers at the hall decided to create a piece of embroidery inspired by the Hall and its exhibits to celebrate the anniversary. After having found the folder that detailed how much thought, trial and error and time had gone into that piece, I was able to admire it much more when I finally saw it on display. The story behind a beautiful piece of needlework usually makes it even more interesting to me!

Leaving Hardwick Hall with lots of good memories and a few postcards to remind me, I went on to Bath. More about that next time!

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