For the first time the National Trust’s Hardwick Hall are inviting visitors to come and see the re-hanging of two of the amazing Gideon tapestries, recently returned from conservation.
The Gideon tapestries are a 13 strong, 21 foot high set of Brussels tapestries which were woven in the 1500s and tell the Biblical story of Gideon and his victory over the Midianites.
They are the only complete set of this subject matter still hanging in the house for which they were purchased. They would have taken the Flemish weavers 30 to 40 years to complete.
Nigel Wright, House and Collections Manager says, ‘The re-hang is a huge task involving two sets of scaffolding and a team of around twelve house staff and conservators, and will take place on Wednesday 15th May, between noon and 4.30pm. Having the chance to see the sheer scale of the Gideon’s re-hanging is truly a unique experience, which we hope visitors will enjoy watching.’
For over 400 years the Gideon tapestries have been the crowning glory of Hardwick Hall. Bess of Hardwick, one of the richest women in England at the time, bought them for £326.6s whilst in London in 1592 and it has been suggested that the Long Gallery was built in the proportions we see today, especially to house them. Bess of Hardwick came from humble beginnings – she saw herself as an underdog like Gideon in the biblical story – but she had triumphed at court and grown rich and powerful through a succession of shrewd marriages.
As well as being priceless in themselves, the Gideon tapestries shed some light on her fascinating personality.
Fortunately through generous donations and grant funding we have managed to conserve ten of the tapestries in the collection and the transformation is dramatic.
The two tapestries have been cleaned using a specialist process to ensure that the fabric is not damaged, before weak areas of the material are repaired or replaced. They are then re-hung in the Long Gallery, so that visitors can once again marvel at the beauty and craftsmanship just as they did in Bess of Hardwick’s day.
The National Trust now faces the daunting task of raising enough money to restore and save the remaining larger three tapestries.
They urgently need your help to complete the work and save the whole collection. Current estimates suggest that the remaining three tapestries will cost £180,000 each to restore. You can support the Gideon appeal by donating at www.justgiving.com/HardwickGideons.