Bayeux in Britain at the Reading Museum

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The Bayeux Tapestry is one of the most recognisable and famous artefacts of British history. But although seemingly telling a simple story, in fact from the reasons for its creation to its message, it contains many puzzles and enigmas. Can we tell who created the tapestry? Is it simply a piece of Norman propaganda, or is there a clever hidden pro Anglo-Saxon message woven into it?  There are very few people given names on the tapestry- who are they and why are they there?

Few people know that Britain possesses its very own Bayeux Tapestry – a near perfect replica made in Leek in 1886. Using this replica, our day investigates the history of the tapestry (and that of the replica itself ), the reasons for its creation, and its legacy down the centuries. We then look in detail at its scenes and mysteries and what they can tell us. We use Reading Museum’s extensive collection of medieval artefacts to add to our experience of the early medieval world and end by visiting the imposing remains of Reading Abbey – once one of the largest in Europe which was founded by, and is the final resting place of, William the Conqueror’s youngest son King Henry 1st “Beauclerc”, an unjustly forgotten  monarch whose reign was much longer than that of his father.  

The lecture will be about the history of the tapestry -  who made it (lots of different theories about this in particular a rivalry between Normandy and Canterbury), and why (was it the notorious Bishop Odo, William's half-brother? are there secret messages in it). How it was originally displayed and why that matters. We will talk about its later history, how it was rediscovered, how it was used by Napoleon as propaganda etc. and a little bit on why the replica was made in the Victorian period

The walk will take us round the grounds of where the Abbey was - we can see the hospitium, ie guest house, the one remaining gate, the site of the abbey mill, the monk's quarters, the chapter house, and the site of Henry 1st's tomb.

The gallery tour will be focussed on the tapestry. We will  be looking at the"mysterious" episodes in particular - so why is a clergyman slapping a lady called Aelgyva, who was Turold and was he a dwarf? and also comparing it to what we know of the story of the Battle of Hastings from written records asking how far the Tapestry agrees

Tour highlights:

  • Exclusive assess to the Gallery to view the Tapestry
  • Handling Session
  • Lecture by Dr Andy Fear on the history of the Tapestry and who made it
  • Walk around the grounds of the Abbey

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