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District's villages highlighted in Elizabethan map

Giant tapestry goes on display in Oxford for the first time in centuries

Sarah Bosley

sarah.bosley@newburynews.co.uk

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District's villages highlighted in Elizabethan map

Part of the restored Sheldon Tapestries - Pictures courtesy of Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

The Elizabethan names of towns and villages across the district have been highlighted in a restored tapestry that has gone on display at the Bodleian’s Weston Library in Oxford for the first time in more than a century.

The map, which measures 3.5m by 5.5m, was woven in wool and silk more than 400 years ago and shows a large swathe of the country stretching from Cheltenham to London.

Nick Millea, Map Librarian at the Bodleian Libraries, said the Sheldon tapestries formed a “unique representation of the landscape, at a period when modern cartography was still in its infancy”.

“The Oxfordshire tapestry is a magnificent spectacle and we are expecting it to be a major draw for visitors who can enjoy spotting familiar landmarks and place names that have personal relevance for them," he added.

Although not fully complete, the map does include Newbury and its surrounding villages, including Enborne, Compton, Lambourn, East Garston, Baydon and Chaddleworth, all highlighted with beautifully intricate images of trees, hills and churches.

Oxford, with its bridges clearly visibly, and the White Horse at Uffington are also included.

The map is one of four tapestries commissioned in the 1590s by landowner Ralph Sheldon, which together were designed to provide a view across central England.

Virginia Llado-Buisan, head of conservation and collection care at the Bodleian Libraries, said: "The Sheldon Tapestry of Oxfordshire, despite being more than 400-years-old, looks stunning and has kept its colours almost intact.

“Most importantly, the tapestry is now stable, well preserved and accessible for the public to enjoy.

“It was a joy working with our fellow conservators at the National Trust, as well as to carry out research on the map in collaboration with The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Scientific Research and the National Museums of Scotland."

It has taken seven years to restore the tapestry and the conservation project is a collaboration between the Bodleian Libraries and the National Trust.

The Bodleian Libraries owns three of the four maps; it was bequeathed the Oxfordshire map, along with the Worcestershire one, by antiquarian Richard Gough in 1809. It then acquired a fragment of the Gloucestershire map in 2007.

The Warwickshire map is owned by Warwickshire County Council.

Visitors to the library can see the tapestry, for free, hanging in Blackwell Hall, the library’s public atrium. Staff are on hand from 11.30am until noon every week day to chat to visitors about the map.

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