City battle detailed in £30,000 tapestry which has taken five years to make

Norwich Museum continue to work on The Norwich Friends’ Tapestry for project Norwich Castle: Royal Palace Reborn.

Norwich Museum continue to work on The Norwich Friends’ Tapestry for project Norwich Castle: Royal Palace Reborn. - Credit: Beth Moseley Photography/Eye Film / Archant

The Fine City's rich history has been lovingly stitched into a giant tapestry to be enjoyed for decades to come. 

Volunteers at Norwich Museum have been working for five years to tell the story of Norman Norfolk via needlework of wool and linen. 

Their efforts so far on the 20m tapestry have depicted knights in armour, feasts, battles, and ceremonies of 11th century East Anglia.

Up to 17,500 hours have already been put into what is called The Norwich Friends’ Tapestry - copying the same style as the Bayeux Tapestry.

The famous 11th Century counterpart depicts the conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy.

Battle rages in the Norwich sequel to the Bayeux Tapestry

Battle rages in the Norwich sequel to the Bayeux Tapestry

Norfolk's version will go on display when the newly revamped Norwich Castle Keep reopens next year.

Nik Ravenscroft, 60, volunteer team leader on the project, said: "It's been really exciting.

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"You don't ever get a chance like this to participate in something so unique.

"There was a lot of things to take into consideration - like finding the right linen to use, how to get the stitching down and getting the right colours and style to match the original Bayeux."

Nik Ravenscroft, volunteer team leader of the Norwich Castle: Royal Palace Reborn project.

Nik Ravenscroft, volunteer team leader of the Norwich Castle: Royal Palace Reborn project. - Credit: Beth Moseley Photography/Eye Film

Nik added: "I'd say ours is around two thirds finished - if not a little more than that.

"Hopefully it will be completed in the next couple of years."

A sequel to the Bayeux Tapestry is being created for Norwich Castle by volunteers 

A sequel to the Bayeux Tapestry is being created for Norwich Castle by volunteers - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Norwich artist Fiona Gowen was commissioned to design the piece in a similar colour and style to the famous Bayeux piece.

Fiona's design depicts the story of William the Conqueror’s 1066 victory over King Harold as the incoming king discusses plans for a new castle in Norwich.

The story continues with East Anglian hero Hereward the Wake rebelling against the Norman invaders.

It ends with Emma De Guader, Countess of Norfolk and East Anglia, defending Norwich Castle against the besieging king’s army in 1096.

Volunteers who are embroidering the Norwich version of the Bayeux Tapestry.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

Volunteers who are embroidering the Norwich version of the Bayeux Tapestry. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Michelle Gaskin, volunteer coordinator at Norfolk Museum Service, added: "The project started in 2017 and is being funded by a gift from the Friends of the Norwich Museums, of around £30,000.

"It forms part of our National Lottery Heritage Fund re-development project Norwich Castle: Royal Palace Reborn.

"The result of everyone's time and dedication will be a stunning 20-metre-long embroidery which will adorn the walls of Norwich Castle Keep when it reopens."

Nik Ravenscroft, with Dr Tim Pestell, and Fiona Gowen.

Nik Ravenscroft, with Dr Tim Pestell, Senior Curator of Archaeology at Norwich Castle Museum, and Fiona Gowen, who created the drawings. - Credit: Beth Moseley Photography/Eye Film

Norwich's rich textile history

The city's textile trade was once famous across the world and provided employment for generations of skilled people.

Norwich was a centre of weaving as early as 1174 and, by the 1670s, half of freemen were connected with the textile trade.

The Norwich worsted trade grew rapidly and the exports of worsted - a type of wool - and Norwich wares captured a world market.

There are still a number of weavers’ cottages remaining, such as Weaver's House in Mountergate or Dragon Hall in King Street, which have the distinctive windows – either dormer windows or long attic windows.

In the late 18th and 19th centuries Norwich shawls became famous as a must-have fashion item.

However by 1900 only about 2,000 people were in the textile industry and in 1901 there were no worsted weavers at all in the city.