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Acquiring the tapestries

The Gideon Tapestries cover the length of the Long Gallery © National Trust/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Gideon Tapestries cover the length of the Long Gallery

The Long Gallery never fails to impress Hardwick's visitors and the source of their awe is usually the impressive Gideon tapestries.

Although acquired second hand from the bankrupted Sir Christopher Hatton of Northampton, the tapestries fit so well, you'd think they were designed for the room itself.

A personal touch

The Hardwick stag can be seen all over the Hall. © National Trust/John Hammond

The Hardwick stag can be seen all over the Hall.

Bess of Hardwick paid over £300 for the tapestries - an incredible amount of money at the time.

She negotiated a £5 discount because they showed Sir Christopher's crest. Bess cleverly had her embroiderers stitch a painted piece of cloth over it.

Hatton's symbol was a doe and hers was a stag, so she simply painted on the antlers.

Who was Gideon?

The Gideon Tapestries are based on the biblical character Gideon © Hardwick Hall/National Trust

The Gideon Tapestries are based on the biblical character Gideon

Gideon appears in the Bible. He was chosen by God to free the people of Israel and condemn their worship of false idols.

Unsure of God's command, Gideon requested three miracles as proof. Firstly, a sign from an angel and two more involving a fleece. He left a fleece outside and asked God to make it wet one night and dry the next.

The tapestries: conservation in action

Why are they so important?

Detail of the Hardwick stag, the Countess of Shrewsbury's crest © Hardwick Hall/National Trust

The Gideon tapestries are of international importance, utmost rarity and form the most complete set of tapestries still surviving anywhere in the world. They remain in the house and still hang in the Long Gallery, where they were first hung over 400 years ago. They show the biblical story of Gideon in a series of 13 graphic tableaux.

Why do we need to conserve them?

Tapestries at Hardwick © National Trust/Rich Upshall

Over the last 400 years the tapestries have suffered a great deal of wear and tear. Their great size, age and weight is causing the tapestries to fall apart. They have also collected all sorts of dirt and dust. They have been damaged by light, which fades and weakens them.

What is being done?

The colour of the new cotton was very carefully matched © National Trust/John Hammond

The National Trust is undertaking a major conservation project to clean and conserve these tapestries. Eight have already undergone conservation work and two are currently being conserved. So far, our work has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and the Trust itself.

We need to act now or we will lose these exceptional treasures © National Trust/John Hammond

We need to act now or we will lose these exceptional treasures

How you can help

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