Textile collection: the Gideon tapestries

Conservators stitching tapestry

Hardwick is renowned for its textiles, including an extensive collection of tapestries.

Furnishing a home

By the mid-1590s when Hardwick was taking shape, Bess had already furnished her great house at Chatsworth but could only bring a small proportion of the contents with her when she moved back to Hardwick, so in the winter of 1592/3 Bess went on a shopping spree while in London.  Amongst her purchases were the Gideon set of tapestries purchased from the estate of Sir Christopher Hatton for the huge sum of £326 15s 9d (from which £5 was deducted because Bess had to change the Hatton coat of arms to her own).

The Long Gallery at Hardwick
The Long Gallery at Hardwick

Conservation in action

The tapestries, which line the Hall’s Long Gallery, depict the Biblical story of Gideon. These tapestries are the subject of a conservation project which has already spanned twenty years, to halt the deterioration in these irreplaceable objects.

In June 2017, the latest of these conserved tapestries was re-hung in the Long Gallery. To conserve a Gideon tapestry costs £278,000. The tapestry has been at the Conservation Studio undergoing extensive repair and stabilisation over the last two years. The process of conservation begins with sending the tapestry to Belgium for specialist cleaning. Once back at the Studio the team work to repair tears and replace stitches where possible.

As the tapestry is so large (approximately 7m x 6m) we worked from scaffolding to re-hang it. The tapestry is on a roll which is raised vertically and then unrolled from one side of the wall to the other. The top of the tapestry is secured with Velcro to two wooden battens fixed on the wall. The tapestry will then be left for at least two years without portraits hung over it so you can see it in all its glory, as originally intended.

Conservators at the Textile Conservation Studio in Norfolk
Conservators vacuum a tapestry at the Textile Conservation Studio in Norfolk

A big thank you

With thanks to your generous donations over the years, we’ve been able to conserve 11 of the 13 Gideon tapestries, which are hung in the 28ft high Long Gallery.

There are just two Gideon tapestries left to conserve. Help us raise funds to continue our work and complete the set of Gideon tapestries.

Conservators working on the Gideon tapestry at Conservation Studio,Blickling
Conservators working on the Gideon tapestry at Conservation Studio,Blickling

Caring for our fragile textiles

To keep the textiles at Hardwick in the best condition we…

  • Keep them safe from light, heat and visitor’s fingers
  • Clean them with goat’s hair brush and museum vacuum
  • Have them surveyed and get regular condition reports