Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry

4 Sep

Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry

             The Bayeux Tapestry is a timeless piece of artwork and an extremely important historical document depicting the Norman invasion of England and the battle of Hastings.  It is currently housed in the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux in France.  In 1855 Elizabeth Wardle decided, “England should have a copy of its own.”  She was, as a member of the Leek Embroidery Society, a skilled embroiderer in her own right.  Her Husband, Thomas Wardle, was a leader in the silk industry.  The two were cousins that wed in 1857 and proudly bore 14 children.  Mrs. Wardle’s connection to the textile industry proved quite valuable when Thomas was able to reproduce the woolen, dyed yarns needed to replicate the tapestry.

           Mrs. Wardle was inspired to recreate the Bayeux Tapestry after viewing a series of hand-colored photographs of the tapestry at the South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria and Albert Museum.  In total, 39 women, including Elizabeth Wardle, worked on the recreation.  Of those 39, 35 worked on the actual embroidery process.  Each woman completed a section of the tapestry in length anywhere from six inches to twenty feet.  Elizabeth Wardle herself completed the first, over eight foot long section.  The replica tapestry was finished in approximately one year.

Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry would be a perfect replica of the original were it not for a few changes the women of the Leek Embroidery Society intentionally made.  They refused to let their hard work and their names fall into anonymity like those of the women that produced the original tapestry.  They attached thin, blue linen borders to the top and bottom of their replica.  The bottom border contains the signature of every woman that worked on the embroidery.  Also, the women, in an attempt to censor the tapestry, removed every instance of male genitalia, be it human or animal.  After its completion, Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry was exhibited across Europe and even ventured to the United States before returning to Reading.  The replica found its permanent home in the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1993 where it is displayed as a continuous strip in a specialty case.


“Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry.” Reading Museum Town Hall. Reading Borough Council 2012, 08 Feb 2012. Web. 4 Sep 2012.

Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry at the Museum of Reading. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Sep 2012. <;.

Randolph, Octavia. “Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry.” . N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Sep 2012. <;.


Sarah Ribble


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