The celebrations of 950 years of Norman rule are gathering pace. Before you know it the town will once again be swamped with ‘Normans’, who will as always vanquish the gathered Saxon hordes. I’m talking about 1066 re-enactment of course and not some forthcoming Apocalypse. Violent death is a terrible thing, as is the forced occupation of another country, but the events of 1066 are so far removed from modern day life that it all passes off as just a bit of fun.
Similarly, the Bayeaux Tapestry was little more than a gory retelling of the story and a celebration of Norman dominance over the Saxons. So it was refreshing to come across a new version of the famous ‘carpet on the wall’, being stitched here in Battle. Refreshing because the ‘Battle Tapestry’ depicts the post-Battle of Hastings events that shaped our lovely town from 950 years ago.
Along with my visiting sister and her two sons, I toddled off to the Almonry to see if I could add a few stitches to this historic piece of textile. My wife and her mother had tried to muscle in on the act once before, only to be rebuffed by an occupying army of Japanese tourists. When we returned a couple of weeks later, we found that most of the ‘easy’ bits had been done – perhaps by our oriental contributors.
“Would you mind returning next week and we’ll have something easy for you to do then?”
This time we were in better luck, although the younger of my two nephews was adamant that at the tender age of 16 he had quite enough of needle-work at school. Over the ensuing hour my sister, her 22 year old son and I applied ourselves to the tapestry with much the same concentration as the Bayeaux Tapestry stitchers of old must have done. My sister, probably because of her gender, was given a curved line to stitch, whilst we mere menfolk were charged with stitching just a bit of straight line. I have to say I thought I did remarkably well. I took a photograph of my work, in order to help me find my contribution when it is displayed upon its completion later this year.
I suspect this ‘peoples tapestry’, contributed to by several hundred members of the public, is not a repeat of the process used by the Canterbury-based seamstresses back in Norman times. At 230 feet long it would probably have taken the whole of the last 950 years to complete. In fact it is believed to have had a more recent contribution. Close inspection of the famous arrow in Harold’s eye is revealed to have been added during the 18th Century. Photoshopping it seems is not a modern day technique.
With this is in mind, my photograph of my original stitch-work will be compared with the finished product when it is exhibited. Woe-betide if I should find anyone has edited my contribution!