The stories behind Norfolk's bedcovers

he exuberant Bellamy Quilt, made by Charlotte Springall and Herbert Bellamy during their engagement back in 1890-91.

The exuberant Bellamy Quilt made by Charlotte Springall and Herbert Bellamy of Great Yarmouth during their engagement back in 1890-91. - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service

Love, sex and grief in quilt form star in the Textile Treasures exhibition at Norwich Castle. 

Quilts created in Norfolk to celebrate a marriage, mourn a child and mark the pandemic are on show at Norwich Castle until February 20. 

See the Coronaquilt, made up of individual squares embroidered in isolation by members of Norfolk’s Costume and Textile Association to form a unique record of life during the pandemic. 

The Coronaquilt, created by members of Norfolk's Costume and Textile Association

The Coronaquilt, created by members of Norfolk's Costume and Textile Association - Credit: Costume and Textile Association

Or there is the exuberant Bellamy Quilt, made by a Great Yarmouth couple during their engagement back in 1890-91.    

Textile Treasures is a chance to see why Norwich Castle’s textile collection is nationally renowned. 

Several of the quilts are not only exquisitely examples of patchwork, applique and embroidery but also hold fascinating stories.  

The Brereton Tester panel was made by a grieving mother

The Brereton Tester panel was made by a grieving mother - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service

The Brereton Tester panel was made for the ceiling of a four-poster bed between 1801 and 1805 by Margaretta Brereton as she mourned the death of her son John and includes a picture of four children playing, which would only have been visible to someone lying in the bed.  

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The Marsham Quilt, on display for the first time since being donated to Norwich Castle Museum in 2019, was made a century ago by Norfolk sisters Sarah and Ethel Marsham from the scraps of material and thread they gathered while working as housemaids in London in the 1910s. It features fabrics including tweed, silk, crepe and velvet and was made for six nephews and nieces back in Norfolk. 

The Marsham Quilt was made from scraps of material by two housemaid sisters

The Marsham Quilt was made from scraps of material by two housemaid sisters - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service

The Bellamy Quilt is also a collaboration – between newly engaged Yarmouth couple Charlotte  Springall and Herbert Bellamy. It is a fine example of the a scrapbook quilt – a patchwork of contemporary culture, local sights, everyday items, and their personal histories.  

Duvet of Love by David Shenton

Duvet of Love by David Shenton - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service

Textile Treasures also includes the work of contemporary artists. David Shenton’s Duvet of Love is a  colourful image of two men embracing, created from a mosaic of badges pinned to a double duvet cover. 

The Coronaquilt was created by members of the Costume and Textile Association, sponsors of the exhibition, in response to coronavirus. They embroidered individual squares in isolation which have been stitched together into a unique record of the pandemic 

Exhibition curator Ruth Battersby Tooke has arranged the quilts on open display rather than behind glass, giving visitors an unusually intimate view of the beautiful bedcovers.  

Textile Treasures is at Norwich Castle until February 20. Tickets for Norwich Castle include admission to the exhibition. For full and up-to-date information visit norfolk.museums.gov.uk