Just Hanging: the tapestries at Cotehele

Tapestry from the Bacchanals series depicting slightly-clad children making wine

'Just Hanging' highlights the vast collection of tapestries in Cotehele House. Find out why they're not just a bunch of faded old weavings hanging around to keep the place warm.

Tapestries, and the subjects within them, would have been a way for the Edgcumbe family to show off their wealth, importance, knowledge, history and their sense of humour.

A romantic idea

The Edgcumbe family, who owned Cotehele since the 1300s, built a new house down the River Tamar at Mount Edgcumbe in the mid-1500s. From that point, Cotehele became a second home. In the 18th-century they remodelled Mount Edgcumbe House and started to cotton on to the idea that they could take their visitors up the river for a nice day out at Cotehele and show off the ‘ancestral home’. The Edgcumbes spent generations cultivating Cotehele's antiquarian appeal by creating a romantic visitor experience.

Royal visit

When King George III and Queen Charlotte visited Cotehele in 1789, Queen Charlotte wrote the first known description of the interior of the house, referring to nine rooms being 'hung with old tapestry'. The king and queen's route through the house is the same one visitors experience today.

" By following our self-guided tour, 'Just Hanging', you can lose yourself in the deep, dark forest of the verdures in the Dining Room, or examine deterioration, conservation, and tragic myth in King Charles’s Room. Our room guides are well-informed and can help you on your journey through these threads of time. "
- Rachel Hunt, Cotehele’s House and Collections Manager

Life's rich tapestry

Follow the original visitor route in 'Just Hanging' and you'll find yourself smiling at the children’s antics in ‘Acrobatics by the Lake’ in the Red Room, swimming the Hellespont with Leander in King Charles's Room and pondering whether Temperance’s glass is half-full or half-empty in the ‘Triumph of Virtue’ in the Old Drawing Room.

Verdure tapestry with dancing figures at Cotehele
Verdure tapestry with dancing figures in a glade at Cotehele, Cornwall

Chopping and changing

There are dozens of tapestries throughout the house in various states of repair, each with individual stories and subject matter. Some are patched and others are cut around fireplaces and doorways in what we would probably call 'up-cycling' nowadays.

For the children

Children will enjoy a ‘lost in the loom’ trail where they can search for items woven into the tapestries. Older children might also be interested in learning the difference between tapestry and embroidery in a handling exhibit in the tiny closet off the White Room.