We hoped for some time to be able to obtain a traditional rush mat for the Tudor Bedroom to match the beautiful mat in the Tudor Parlour at Avebury Manor in Wiltshire. Now, after a very generous donation from our local National Trust Association, we have been able to go back to Rush Matters, the manufacturers of the mat in the Tudor Parlour.
How rushes are turned into mats
Rush Matters harvest four to five tonnes of rush a day for six to eight weeks of the year, process the rushes and weave products ranging from mats to bags to place mats. It takes one bolt of wild rush, equating to 13 linear metres of plaiting and 26 hours of work, to produce one square metre of rush matting.
Harvested on a 3 year basis, the rushes woven to produce our mat grow up to ten feet tall and were cut from the River Great Ouse in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire and the River Nene in Northamptonshire. Colour variation through the weaving is due to environmental factors: the pale shades are caused by sun bleaching during drying, opposed to the darker shades resulting from less sun and the drying effect of the wind. The bright yellow tones identify the rushes that were submerged on the river bed and are due to less chlorophyll production.
The final touches were made on-site
After 210 hours of weaving, the body of our new rush mat arrived in three pieces, plus metres of the binding for the edge. The rest of the construction was done in the Tudor Bedroom. Five hours of measuring, trimming and sewing (using a sail makers needle) later, and the mat was finished and in place.
The new mat should last for around eight years
In National Trust properties with much greater visitor numbers, similar, albeit larger mats, have been known to require replacement after eight years. Felicity Irons of Rush Matters suggests in a smaller room with a concentrated footfall, our mat should reach a similar age but sections can be replaced in areas of wear. By rotating the mat through 180 degrees laterally, the wear pattern can be spread and therefore maintenance kept to a minimum – this process has already been adopted in the Tudor Parlour.
The mat fills the room with a soft, herbal scent and helps make this comfortable bedroom feel warm and cosy. Come and see it for yourself next time you visit Avebury.