In March 2015, planning began for a community needlecraft project commemorating the Battle of Stamford Bridge. First stitches were worked in September 2015 and the core group of stitchers has steadily increased to 20.
The Battle of Stamford Bridge (September 25, 1066) was a crucial turning point in British history. The Saxons defeated the Vikings so comprehensively that almost an entire generation of Viking warriors were wiped out. If the Saxon troops had not had to fight the Battle of Stamford Bridge, they would almost certainly have been victorious at the Battle of Hastings, less than a month later, and British history would have been very different.
Like the Bayeux Tapestry, the Stamford Bridge Tapestry is actually an embroidery, stitched in Appletons crewel wool, on linen twill. There are only two stitches used – outline stitch and Bayeux stitch – and nine colours, plus small amounts of red and purple for the two kings. The Tapestry has been designed in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry by Chris Rock, Chairman of the Battle of Stamford Bridge Heritage Society, of which the tapestry project is a part. The central narrative sections are currently being embroidered, after which the stitchers will go back to work the borders and the text.
The Tapestry is expected to be completed in 2018/2019 and will be 15m long when finished. It is being stitched by a team of volunteers, under the direction of Shirley Smith, professional textile artist and York Minster broderer. The intention is for the Tapestry to become a national heirloom for Britain, in the same way as the Bayeux Tapestry is for France.
Most of the stitchers in the team were fairly inexperienced embroiderers when they began working on the project. Thanks to their mentor, Shirley, they are now producing work of a standard far higher than they ever expected. Several of the team have joined the Embroiderers’ Guild, with two members now embarking on their Stage 2 City and Guilds in Hand Embroidery.
Although most of the volunteers did not know each other when they began, the project has brought together a friendly, supportive group of stitchers who enjoy meeting and creating together. The team is determined to complete the tapestry to the highest standard possible, not only as a national treasure, but as a lasting memorial to their friend Tom Wyles, who sadly died in February 2016. Tom had the original idea for the project and it is continuing as he would have wished.
The Tapestry is a wonderfully vibrant piece of work which photographs well. The project has been featured in Stitch magazine, Yorkshire Life, The Yorkshire Post Saturday magazine, The Dalesman, Down Your Way, The York Press, Northern Living magazine and YorkMix, as well as on Minster FM, BBC Radio Humberside and Look North. The team has also been approached by a publisher who is keen for the volunteers to write a book about the project.