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Who was Richard Hyckes?

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Barcheston church

©Hilary L Turner

Richard Hyckes was almost certainly one of many Flemish émigré weavers to seek refuge in England from wars in his own country. Aged around 45 when he is first recorded in Barcheston, Warwickshire, he would have been a Master weaver, and had possibly had his own workshop.

This contradicts the older view, based on remarks of an Oxfordshire antiquary, Anthony Wood (1632-1695), writing one hundred years later than the events he tried to explain. He said that Hyckes had been sent abroad to train as a weaver, then returned and settled at Barcheston. But very few English craftsmen trained abroad.


Hyckes does not appear to have been a local man. No family called Hyckes is recorded at Barcheston before Richard baptised his daughter there in October 1567. The birth of other children, but not of his son Francis who followed him into the weaving trade, were recorded in the parish registers, as was Richard's death, aged 97.

Only recently was it discovered that in January 1569 he was appointed Queen Elizabeth's arrasmaker - the household official in charge of men repairing the monarch's tapestries. They did not weave new ones.


The appointment, a year before Sheldon wrote his will, is curious because

•  Hyckes had no previous service with the household team, made up of Flemish weavers, born in towns where tapestry weaving was the major industry.

•  It seems to conflict with his responsibilities at Barcheston. But it supports the idea of his foreign birth because the post had previously always been held by émigré weavers and needed professional skills.

•  There is little evidence for an English tapestry weaving industry, but many Flemings took refuge in London from wars in their homeland.

•  Written evidence shows Sheldon employed Henrick Camerman, a weaver born in Brussels and aged 22, from 1564 until 1570.

When in his will, Sheldon described Hyckes as "the only author of this art", Sheldon was using a formulaic phrase applied to other émigrés who hoped to set up trading in a skill not previously practised in this country.

Biography of Richard Hyckes -->

1930s monument to Hyckes in Barcheston church

©Hilary L Turner


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