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The Elizabethan Tapestry Maps
- Rediscovered Fragments

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©V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The re-appearance in 1953 of the pieces above and more recent research make it possible to understand the decorative scheme of the Elizabethan tapestry maps more fully than was possible in 1914.

MORE on the background of the Maps

.©V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
courtesy of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

These sections come from the Elizabethan tapestry map of Oxfordshire. They complement the larger section owned since 1809 by the Bodleian Library Oxford.

At the top of the left-hand piece the river Thames is clearly visible at the bend which shelters the royal palace of Hampton Court, near Richmond, shown on the opposite bank. Further south, in Surrey, lies another royal palace, Oatlands. Amongst the towns shown is Epsom, written as EBBESHAM.

The right-hand piece shows the arms of the Sheldon family. The boar and the knob of a club above its head depicted one of the mythological Labours of Hercules - the killing of the Erymanthian Boar. It was matched by another story, the slaying of the many-headed Hydra, in the left-hand corner of the Elizabethan Worcestershire tapestry.

Above them was a lengthy, but incomplete inscription describing the University of Oxford. It was based on William Camden's Britannia, a best selling travelogue first published in 1586.

The Worcestershire tapestry shows the decorative elements of the left-hand side - the royal arms at the top and a scale and dividers at the bottom. About eight feet is missing from the right-hand side, but the corner of the decorative frame suggests that another text inscription had once been there. Because the arms of Ralph Sheldon's father, William, were repeated on the later tapestry it seems probable that they were also used on the Elizabethan original.

All four elements can be seen in the only complete tapestry, of Warwickshire, now known to be the original, even though its Elizabethan border was removed and replaced by a style current in the seventeenth century, frequently used by weavers at Mortlake. The change was probably made so that this tapestry could be made to look like, and hang alongside, the two copies of Oxfordshire and Worcestershire made in the later seventeenth century.




Oxfordshire tapestry map T.61-1954
4ft 1 3 / 4 inches x 2ft 1 3 / 4 inches; 1.26 x 0.65m.

Materials: woollen warps, wool and silk weft


Oxfordshire tapestry map T.61A-1954
4ft 1 3 / 4 inches x 2ft 1 3 / 4 inches; 1.26 x 0.65m.
Warp count for both pieces: 16-17 per inch; 6-7 per cm

Materials: woollen warps, wool and silk weft


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