People’s tapestry inaugurated in St Clement’s
The Hastings 950 People’s Tapestry was inaugurated at the weekend with a blessing in St Clement’s church in the Old Town. Launched in April, the initiative has proved enormously popular, and many panels have still to be returned and mounted. Nick Terdre reports. Photos by Simon Hennessey.
The tapestry consists of panels decorated with individual images of local residents. Some 700 panels have been sold so far, but people are still asking to buy them, so it has been decided to keep the project open until the end of the year or until 950 have been sold, Keith Leech, of St Clement’s with All Saints church council, told HOT.
The original idea, whereby local residents decorate small panels with an image of themselves or a friend or relative, was Heather Leech’s, Keith’s wife. “It has been a much bigger success than any of us envisaged,” says Keith. “Each picture tells a personal story and each is important to the individual who made it. It is wonderful to have so much work and so much love from the town woven together so that in another 950 years they can see us and we can say: Here we are, this is Hastings in 2016.”
The service in St Clement’s, which marked the end of the community events arranged to commemorate the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings by the Hastings Celebrates 950 committee and Hastings Week, located the tapestry in a broader context. Titled Reflection, it invited the audience to reflect both on the epoch-changing clash in 1066, and the devastating changes it brought for ordinary folk in the area, and the continuing history of conflict down the ages to the present day. Images from the world wars and current conflicts were silently displayed on a screen at the top of one aisle.
As well as its solemn side, the service offered plenty to enjoy, with a varied programme of music, handbell ringing, dance and readings. These included three extracts from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, describing the battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings, and William’s death-bed confession, in which he owned up to having treated the Saxons abominably.
The tapestry was blessed by Archdeacon Edward Dowley, whose dedication included the line: “May it help us to remember that all our lives are interwoven, and that we depend on one another in ways both seen and unseen.”
There followed a bible reading, the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer in Anglo-Saxon and a rendering of Jerusalem by all present. Then candles for peace between nations were lit by various dignitaries and representatives. Among those present were the mayors of Hastings, Judy Rogers, Battle, David Furness, and the German town of Schwerte, with which Hastings is twinned, Heinrich Böckelühr, as well as the High Sheriff for East Sussex, Michael Foster.
The tapestry will be displayed in the upper gallery at St Clement’s – it is hoped to have the church open for viewing on Saturdays between 11am and 2pm and over half-term, Keith says. The stories behind each panel are also being collated as a book which will eventually also be made available electronically.
See also The new Hastings tapestry
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