The Tale Begins


Creating the Image

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In the early twentieth century the name 'Sheldon' was given to a group of tapestries thought to be products of a workshop brought into existence by the provisions set out in 1570 in the will of William Sheldon. He arranged a loan fund and gave use of his manor house at Barcheston, Warwickshire, rent-free, to one Richard Hyckes.


The tapestries so-called differ from styles clearly definable as those from workshops on the continent, but nothing reveals their origins. Their identification was supported only by assumptions. Other than the will, there was not, and there is still not, any documentation associated with a surviving tapestry. The discoveries, and the implications, make both a puzzling and an interesting story.


The first research was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and was written with a strongly patriotic bias. Most of the surviving tapestries are small sized. They are of variable quality and thematically repetitious. They would, nevertheless, have given a touch of luxury to the houses, and emphasized the status, of the many newly wealthy men in Elizabethan England whose purse, and whose wall-space, could not support large wall-hangings.


New Views

Over the eighty years since the first research, much has been learned about tapestry in general, about the economic background of producers and purchasers, about the first owners and about the design sources that appealed to them. Most importantly, it is now clear that Barcheston was not the only production centre in England. New views mean that a new picture can now be presented.


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At least 116 tapestries are now known by this name. The unity of the image created in the 1920s is no longer so clear and it seems unlikely that all were woven at Barcheston. Discover where to see, and where to read, more.



All images on this page ©V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London





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