Historic tapestry with Battle of Hastings theme to be displayed in Rye

Panels on the tapestry
Panels on the tapestry

A historic tapestry commissioned to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings is coming out of storage for the first time in decades.

The embroidery, which rivals the Bayeux tapestry in scale, consists of 27 panels depicting significant events in British history from 1066 and 1966.

Commissioned by war hero Group Captain Ralph Bagshaw Ward in collaboration with Hastings Town Council, the 245ft tapestry was created by the Royal School of Needlework in 1966.

The artwork will be taken out of storage for the first time in years for an immersive display at Bridge Point in Rock Channel, Rye – the site of a proposed new creative arts centre.

Planning permission is being sought for the centre, as well as a restaurant and some homes, but until the green light is given for the plans, a series of pop up events will take place at the site.

The tapestry will be on display on selected dates between May and October, along with additional installations including a piece by artist and director Tim Hopkins.

Mr Hopkins said: “The Tapestry Project is a chance to see again a particular example of how Britain narrates itself, from 53 years ago, in the form of the Hastings Embroidery.

“Its images alight on older histories, drawn from other historic visualisations of events – some recent, others remote even at the time of their own creation – a layering of inherited associations, many derived from other artefacts and artworks, presented as episodes in a continuous record.” 

The exhibition will also showcase the work of British composer and sound-scape artist Robert Thomas, who sees the depiction of historic events in the embroidery as the start of a stimulating discussion about national identity.

He said of the project: “What does it mean to be British? How should we feel about our cultural heritage?

“When are we right to feel proud? What should we learn from in our nations history?

“How should we feel about our future? This piece aims to explore the complex inextricably interwoven emotions of being British in the 21st century.”

The display will be open to the public over six weekends, beginning with the bank holiday weekend at the end of May.

Visitors with ID aged 26 and under can visit the exhibit for free and all others will be charged £3 entry to cover the cost of the staging and installation.

Volunteering at the display

Volunteers are needed to help supervise visitors to the display and will be given an option of doing a two and a half hour shift during opening times.

All volunteers will receive souvenir t- shirt and refreshments.

Tim Hopkins said: “This has been a significant logistical and artistic undertaking and we would welcome public support to maximise the opportunities to display the tapestry.”

The dates and times for volunteers are as follows:

Late Morning 10.45am to 1pm or Afternoon 12.45pm to 3.15pm

Sunday 26-May and Monday 27-May

Saturday8-Jun and Sunday 9-Jun

Saturday 13-Jul and Sunday 14-Jul

Saturday 25-Aug and Sunday 26-Aug

Saturday 14-Sep and Sunday 15-Sep

Saturday 12-Oct and Sunday 13-Oct

There will be an induction day for participating volunteers to get to know the facility and the exhibition.

These will take place at Wednesday, May 15, at 5.30pm; Thursday, May 16, at 11am and Saturday, 25 May, at 11am.

To find out more about volunteering and express an interest, email admin@artistdigital.co.uk

SEE MORE: Plans for £8m Rock Channel redevelopment scheme in Rye submitted to council