Earlier this year we decided that we would have a holiday in September (Covid rules permitting) in our camper van. As this was to be a holiday for me, hubby asked me to write a list of the places I’d like to go, which I did (hubby has had a couple of underwater photography holidays this year). One aim of our holiday was to visit his family in Northumberland for a couple of days and I wanted to visit a cousin in Cumbria who had lost her husband earlier this year. Other than that, my list included textile related places on both the east and west of England. The holiday was a real success and I thought you may be interested in some of the places we visited, related to textiles. Hence this piece for our blog!
Our first stop was to be Lincoln and it just so happened that Hardwick Hall was on our route. Having just heard Dr M A Katrizky talk about Bess of Hardwick and her Elizabethan needlework wall hangings, it was quite fortuitous that we could stop on our way to see them. The house itself is stunning, both inside and out. There are beautiful tapestries hanging on most of the walls in the Hall and Bess’ needlework panels are quite stunning. Sadly, the National Trust booklet only devotes a couple of pages to them and I neglected to take any photos! However, I would recommend a visit to Hardwick Hall if you’re ever in the area.
You may like to take a look at some images on the National Trust website.
Our first overnight stop was Lincoln. I walked up Steep Hill (it’s very steep!) to the Cathedral, which is quite beautiful and contains some gorgeous needlework on the various alter frontals. I have no idea who is responsible for this needlework but maybe a member of T&S might have some information? I did take some photos for you to see.
Next stop was Leeds. On my list was an Arts & Craft centre that I’d read about but it was a bit of a disappointment. However, next door is the main Leeds library which contains the Leeds Tapestry 2000. I’d never heard of this Community project, started in 1992 and completed in 2002. Professional textile artists led the project, but involved many people in the community, some of whom had never held a needle and thread before. What a delight these 16 panels are, depicting various aspects of Leeds life in fabric and thread. The Leeds Tapestry Trust has produced a lovely book describing each panel and acknowledging everyone who made a piece of embroidery. There’s no website but I’ll place the book in our library for anyone to have a look at.
After a day in York we moved on to Ripon to visit Barnyarns. I was made most welcome and allowed to wander around their shop/warehouse. I filled a smallish (!) basket with a variety of items to purchase, as you do! It was a joy to be able to wander, unhindered, and look at everything that Barnyarns sells and make mental notes for future purchases!
We then spent the next few days visiting family in Northumberland and Cumbria before travelling through Lancashire to visit Gawthorpe Hall. We went via Colne, intending to visit Empress Mills, only to discover that they’d had a fire and were closed to the public!
However, another place on my list was Farfield Mill, near Sedburgh. What a fantastic place! It’s an old weaving mill, which has been refurbished as an exhibition and craft centre, with crafts people working from studios within the mill building, exhibitions and workshops. They have some original mechanical weaving looms operating from time to time, but not on the day we visited! It’s a fascinating place to visit and see the crafts that are being kept alive by individuals who make their living from them. Have a look at the website www.farfieldmill.org and if you’re ever in this area I can recommend it for a visit. They have a craft orientated second hand bookshop, where I found several books to buy.
Our next visit was to Gawthorpe Hall (National Trust) that I’d wanted to visit for some time. Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth whose family owned Gawthorpe Hall, made it her life’s work to research, record and collect textiles. She used many of these collected pieces to teach young women the various techniques so they would not be lost forever. There is an excellent display, over several rooms, of a variety of textiles. Rachel died in 1967 but the National Trust continues to grow the collection, which according to their brochure, now consists of more than 30,000 pieces! The Hall is Elizabethan (like Hardwick Hall) and is an extremely interesting building in itself and the whole visit was well worthwhile.
The website is https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gawthorpe-hall.
We had intended to visit the new RHS Bridgwater garden at Salford next but the weather forecast was so appalling that we gave that a miss. I’m so pleased we did because we found another National Trust House near Stockport, called Lyme Park https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lyme that was a real gem and contained many textiles too! Again, there are Elizabethan origins to this house (there’s a theme emerging here!) although it has been added to and rearranged over the years.
The highlight of this visit was a bedspread and bed hangings that had been embroidered by a daughter of the Legh family for her marriage bed. However, the poor lady died before her wedding took place and the textiles were boxed up for almost 300 years until found and displayed on a bed of the period. The embroidery is beautiful and the colours of the silks used are as bright as the day it was finished. Lyme also has a rare harp, the Lyme Missal and the finest clock collection you could wish to see. Something for everyone – hubby wasn’t the least bit bored!
We then finished our holiday at Buxton, where the poor weather finally caught up with us. However, the journey home was a clear day and we could see the big skies and huge areas of moorland that Derbyshire is famous for. Lots of inspiration for future embroidery work!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief Textile Tour around England and that it’s maybe given you some food for thought for your next holiday. Who needs to go abroad!
Article and photos thanks to Ann Kingdon – October 2021
Thank you so much Ann for sharing your holiday with us. Ros