A selection of Quaker Tapestry embroideries, a modern day stitched masterpiece in story-telling, is returning for the first time to the county where the idea of it was first mooted.
Celebrating people and events across the centuries, the award-winning tapestries came about as the result of a chance remark by an 11 year old boy to his Sunday school teacher in Taunton 33 years ago.
Fifteen of the 77 award-winning panels will be on show at the Meeting House from Saturday 2nd August to Saturday 16th August (10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday).
A further five panels may be seen at Bath Abbey over the same period. For details of Bath Abbey opening times see www.bathabbey.org.
Entrance to Bath Abbey is free with donations welcomed.
Celebrating Quaker ideas, faith and practice from the 17th century to the present day, the panels will travel to Bath from their Cumbria home in Kendal. They cover subjects as diverse as peace keeping in Russia, industrial welfare, banking, botany and key events from the early days of the Quaker movement.
Seven of the tapestries are linked to places and people in the South West. The 300 year old Quaker School at Sidcot, near Winscombe is depicted on a panel that explains the importance of education to early Quakers.
A panel about the Quaker response to the First World War, with the establishment of the 1914 Friends Ambulance Unit, was designed and embroidered in Sidcot. And other panels have been made by Quaker communities in Bristol, Taunton and Bradford-upon-Avon.
Produced between 1981 and 1996, the creation of the 77 panels involved 4,000 men, women and children from around the world.
The collaborative way in which it was made inspires others to make their own tapestries to commemorate special events.
To coincide with the exhibition, Bath Quakers are designing and producing their own panel. It will depict some of the city’s influential and historical figures including Edmond Rack and John Thomas.
Edmond instigated both the Bath Literary & Scientific Institute (BRLSI) and the Bath & West Agricultural Show and John was superintendent for the construction of the Kennet & Avon Canal.
Visitors to the exhibition in the Quaker Meeting House will be able to see work in progress on the Bath panel.
“Since the dawn of recorded history, craftspeople have used their skills to tell stories” explains Quaker Tapestry Museum manager Bridget Guest. “Such a record is the Quaker Tapestry. As with the famous Bayeux Tapestry, it is a hanging which tells a story. It is a celebration of Quaker experience and insights over 350 years. Ultimately it is a reminder of the contribution these non-conformists have made to the modern world and a testament to the imagination and craftsmanship of those who made it.”
Each of the colourful tapestry panels measures 25” (635mm) x 21” (533mm) and is created in the ‘narrative crewel embroidery’ style of the Bayeux Tapestry. The Tapestry has left a legacy to the world of embroidery with a new stitch which is named the ‘Quaker Stitch’, devised by Anne Wynn-Wilson.
Since its first public exhibition, the Tapestry has travelled to more than 150 venues in the UK, Europe and America. This is the first time a collection of panels has visited Somerset.
The free exhibition includes a film, audio guides, children’s activities, gift shop and opportunities to see embroiderers working. Opening times are 10am to 4pm, Monday to Saturday. Groups of 15 or more are encouraged to book in advance.
You can also discover the stories behind the stitches by visiting www.quaker-tapestry.co.uk