In 1998, I purchased Santina Levey’s book Elizabethan Treasures: The Hardwick Hall Textiles. I read it thoroughly and regularly referred to it for research until the publication of her catalogue, The Embroideries at Hardwick Hall in 2007. Copies were quickly snapped up by scholars and knowledgeable embroiderers and it became a collector’s item in no time at all. (Amazon currently has a used copy for $552 US.) I borrowed it on interlibrary loan from various universities on several occasions as it was not available from any of the city libraries. A wonderful friend let me know that she had a copy and very kindly allowed me to borrow it. I returned it thinking I had finally noted all the information I required. That was not to be the case… after several more borrows and returns, I was generously gifted with the book. I am very grateful and it has become absolutely invaluable to my research, not only for Hardwick, but for almost every other fragment of Tudor embroidery I examine.
So, when it came to actually scheduling a visit to examine some of them for my survey, I thought there would be few surprises… I was so wrong!
I had prepared a long list of embroideries I would like to see but circumstances dictated that the initial appointment could only be two hours, so I selected only what I thought would be key pieces.
When the day arrived, we spent the morning in the study room examining and photographing some smaller, less well known fragments. We took note of materials, silks, metal threads, painting and design transfer, designs and piecing techniques. Here is a small selection of the photos we took before lunch.
The best was yet to come… After lunch we began a wander through the Hall itself. I had read all the catalogue entries and I knew all the details of the different textiles and stitches and I had studied the photographs. Somehow, I was still taken aback, floored actually, by the reality of all those elements coming together. I won’t take you through room by room but you will get an idea of how important this visit was – just to place all the items in the catalogue in the context of the building. I’m looking forward to a longer visit in the autumn.
Visits to special places require assistance from a number of very generous people. For Hardwick Hall, I’d like to express my sincere thanks to Emma, Liz, Ninya, Elena, Tara and a number of very helpful volunteers on the staff at Hardwick Hall. And an extraordinarily huge thankyou to Challe for her organizational skills, her photography skills, her company and her enthusiasm even after hours and hours of sorting through photographs and discussing minute details of the stitching in every one!