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The Barcheston Project and Products Reconsidered

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The Project Reconsidered

© Hilary L Turner


Sheldon's venture looks more and more like similar projects in England's depressed areas, Sandwich, Maidstone, Canterbury, Colchester and Norwich, where townsmen invited 'strangers' (foreigners) to come and teach their skills.

Sheldon's hope was to encourage the growth of a new industry, not previously known in England. Training tapestry weavers here would stop money being paid to foreign producers for tapestry goods imported into this country.


Judith and the head of Holofernes - MORE -->

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



Sheldon's venture no longer looks unique. Finding men working at Barcheston is difficult. Its products are never unmistakeably mentioned in documents, so there is no indisputable way to know what those products are.

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The Tapestries Reconsidered
Only a contract, a city or a weaver's mark can securely establish a tapestry's origins. There is no such starting point to define the tapestries called Sheldon. Although tapestries so named share some stylistic characteristics, there is wider variation than has previously been noticed, surprising for a small workshop's capabilities. Much was borrowed, both from definable tapestry styles woven in continental workshops and from printed sources, widely available.

Products cannot be attributed to any specific workshop because identifiable owners might have made their purchases there - the basis on which these tapestries were first, tentatively, named.

The tapestries called Sheldon, their sixteenth century owners and homes unknown, could have been made anywhere - by the émigré weavers in London or in continental workshops, making them imports.


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