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Gideon tapestry project at Hardwick Hall

Bottom right, Elena Williams - House and Collections Manager for Hardwick Hall, admires the fruits of her labour looking up to the right. She has blonde hair and pale skin, and is wearing a blue patterned top.
Elena Williams - House and Collections Manager for Hardwick Hall, admires the fruits of her labour | © National Trust / James Dobson

Hardwick Hall is renowned for its textiles, including an extensive collection of tapestries. The 13th and final Elizabethan Gideon Tapestry returned home in 2023, signalling the end of the National Trust's longest running conservation project at over 24years.

The Gideons

Brought to the hall after Bess of Hardwick went on a shopping spree in 1592/3 in London, the set of 13 Gideon tapestries line the Hall’s Long Gallery and portray the biblical story of Gideon.

Conservation in action

The conservation of each Gideon tapestry cost £278,000, with a project total of £1.7million. Each tapestry took over two years to complete extensive repairs and stabilisation work. The final tapestry now hanging proudly in the Long Gallery took over 5,470 hours of conservation stitching, lining and reocnstruction.

Now, this cinematic set of tapestries are reunited together for the first time in over two decades.

Painstaking work

Each tapestry was taken to the National Trust's Conservation Studio in Norfolk. The process began with sending each tapestry to Belgium for specialist cleaning. Once back at the Studio, the team completed painstaking work to repair tears and replace stitches where possible, all by hand.

Rehanging involved the use of scaffolding due to the sheer size of each one (approximately 7m x 6m). Each tapestry was on a roll which was raised vertically and then unrolled from one side of the wall to the other. The top of each tapestry was secured with Velcro to two wooden battens fixed on the wall. The tapestries are left for at least two years without portraits hung over, to allow them to be seen in all their glory, as originally intended.

Caring for our fragile textiles

Keeping the textiles at Hardwick in the best condition involves:

  • Keeping them safe from light, heat and visitors' fingers
  • Delicately cleaning them with goat hair brushes and a museum vacuum
  • Having them surveyed and get regular condition reports
Close up image of the one of the Gideon Tapestries with the Europa Nostra Award banner in the bottom right corner
The Gideon Tapestry conservation project has won the Europa Nostra Awards 2024 for Conservation and Adaptive Reuse. | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Award winning conservation techniques

Hardwick is pleased to announce that conservation project has won the European Heritage Award/ Europa Nostra 2024 and was Highly Commended in the Musuem + Heritage Award 2024.

Woven Worlds celebration

Spurred on by the return of the Gideon Tapestry, Hardwick is celebrating all things textile! Take a look at the exciting displays and interactive elements which are currently at Hardwick.

The roof of Hardwick Hall with the initials ES carved in stone on the top

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