The Royston Tapestry

What do prehistoric sea creatures, Romans, Black Death, and a mysterious cave have in common?

You’ll find all of these- and more!- on the Royston Tapestry. Jane Vincent, our Curator in 1989, dreamt up the Tapestry as a way to record Royston’s history. The project was actualised by Honorary Curator Peter Ketteringham, who designed and built the frame, and advised on materials and construction. We began preparations in 1991, and placed the first stitch on July 1, 1993.

The piece is worked in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry, with 15 scenes on one continuous length of linen.  Over 30 local embroiderers have lent their talent and skill, led by stitch coordinators  Christina Renwick and Carole Kaszak.  Each scene depicts a significant point in Royston’s history illustrating the town’s rich and diverse past. The scenes were first drawn on paper, by local artists Dani Kaye and Martin Kaszak, and then transferred onto the linen.  Completing a section, just a few centimetres square, could take several hours due to the detail of the design and the skill required.

On October 29th, 2018, Museum Assistant Amy placed the final stitch. The finished piece is over 24 metres long, and depicts 64 million years of Royston’s history. We’ve spent the last several months conserving the piece and preparing it for display. We’ve replaced the working border with a custom-designed border to support the permanent hanging mechanism. The entire length is now lined with tightly woven cambric, to prevent damage to the reverse of the piece. Most importantly, the names of everyone who has worked on the piece have been permanently preserved in the lining, so that their efforts will not be forgotten.

Following a successful inaugural exhibition, the Tapestry is undergoing conservation, and is not on show. Over six days, nearly 2,000 visitors enjoyed the Tapestry exhibit in Royston Town Hall. After a brief rest period, the Tapestry will head off on tour around the United Kingdom. We’ll announce dates and locations shortly, so stay tuned. Whilst other museums and heritage sites show off the masterpiece, we’ll prepare a permanent home for it here in Royston Museum.