Unravelling the past at Hardwick Hall

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In 2011, work began on one of the wall hangings from the entrance hall, depicting Penelope.

This large embroidery - one of a set of six - dates from the 1570s, when the Countess of Shrewsbury lived at Chatsworth. However, it uses fragments of much older church vestments, some of which date back to the Middle Ages.

As a prized possession the Countess brought the panel with her from Chatsworth to Hardwick where it was displayed in her withdrawing chamber. In time they were re-displayed in the Entrance Hall.

Who was Penelope?

The embroidered panel tells the story of Penelope, the loyal wife of Ulysses, who remained faithful to her husband during the ten years it took him to return from the Trojan war. To Penelope's right is Perseverans, holding an eagle that is striving to reach the sun and on her left is Paciens with a lamb reaching up to her.

TLC at the Textile Conservation Studio

We made our farewells and Penelope has been carefully removed from her frame and transported to the National Trust’s Textile Conservation Studio in Norfolk for some tender loving care.

The embroidery will be removed from its lining, and both sections will be cleaned very carefully to remove as much accumulated dirt as possible. After this, the remedial conservation work will begin. This will involve making small repairs to the fabrics to stabilise the piece, couching loose threads, and using pre-shrunk linen to support the embroidery.

Penelope's return to Hardwick

The conservation work is a time consuming process, but will leave the embroidery in a much better condition than it has been for hundreds of years. Penelope will be re-hung in the Entrance Hall where she will be on display for many more years to come.

The whole process will be recorded using time lapse photography to produce a small film of what is a very interesting and intricate process. We hope to show visitors this footage when Penelope returns.

The work is largely funded by the Wolfson Trust.