Hever Castle Tapestry Back on Display
Tapestry reinstated at Hever Castle after 250 hours of conservation work
Hever Castle is most famous as being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. This 16th Century tapestry depicts the marriage of Henry VIII’s sister, meaning Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary may be one of the ladies depicted.
The tapestry had received previous alterations and repairs, some of which were now showing evidence of structural damage. In addition, previous reapirs were not up to modern standards and had created disfigurements in the appearance. The conservation was placed in the skilled hands of Icon accredited member Alex Seth-Smith ACR and Deborah Eve from the Textile Conservancy.
Alex kindly shared her experience of conserving this historical tapestry:
“The tapestry has a unique feature: a narrow patch of tapestry weave is attached along the entire top edge. The seam that joins it to the rest of the hanging goes around the heads of the figures in the upper region of the tapestry. The stitching was beginning to fail. It was a real weak point in the hanging – the whole of the tapestry was supported by that seam alone.
The second factor that we had to consider was the extent of previous repairs: when the old lining was removed, our suspicions were confirmed – most of the tapestry is covered with linen patches of varying size and orientation! The patches are frequently overlapping and numerous loose edges are distorted. (When first examined, extensive repair stitching was noted: loss of weft threads - presumably silk - had resulted in large areas of exposed warp threads being secured).
On the reverse, examination revealed that the stitching is unstructured, unlike contemporary conservation support stitching that is worked in parallel lines across areas of deterioration. However, the previous repairs are providing support to the exposed warp threads – even if their application lacks planning or structure. In fact, the problem was not so much the stitching but the linen patches themselves, which are aged: the fabric is discoloured and many are heavily stained.
Despite the fact that the previous repairs were a cause for concern, the scale of their application prevented any action being taken to reverse the earlier treatment.
However, in the top right corner, four isolated patches were released as they were heavily stained and the repair stitching was not supporting the areas of deterioration. One large patch of prepared linen scrim was applied to the tapestry and conservation stitching worked across regions of loss. The conservation patch provides a contemporary repair and is a visual contrast to the earlier repairs.”
Now the tapestry and its features have been brought back to life and it is now back hanging in the Book of Hours Room at Hever Castle.
All images reproduced with kind permission of Hever Castle and Gardens