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Rachael and Michael Linton, creations of the Medieval Mosaic.

Rachael and Michael Linton and part of the Medieval Mosaic.

Battle of Hastings mosaic goes on display

A marvellous recreation of the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings has gone on display at St Mary in the Castle, after being transported halfway round the world from New Zealand. The recreation, a steel mosaic, also includes historical sections missing from the famous tapestry. Nick Terdre went to view it. Photos by Tracy Hobden, Hastings Borough Council.

The medieval mosaic, on show for the first time in the UK, is the work of father and daughter Michael and Rachael Linton from New Zealand. It was a long time in the making – work started in 1979 and was only completed in 2012, Michael told HOT. He chose to devote his efforts to the story of the Battle of Hastings in October 1066 as one of the most significant events in English history. And the crypt under Hastings castle is the perfect venue for displaying the mosaic, he said.

The famous Bayeux Tapestry illustrates how the rival claims to the English throne following the death of King Edward the Confessor were resolved on the battlefield with Duke William of Normandy taking the spoils. An embroidered copy would surely have been an easier task, but Michael chose to make a mosaic consisting of three million tiny steel tiles.

The mosaic, which is half the scale of the tapestry, is 210 feet long, divided into 32 separate panels. Much of it consists of two parts of the story which are missing in the original. One covers the events up north, where Norwegian King Harald Hardrada met and defeated the forces of the Northumbrian earls Edwin and Morcar at Fulford Gate only to meet his own end at Stamford Bridge where his men were surprised by King Harold’s army and routed.

Harold's battle is over as he takes an arrow in the eye.

Harold’s (centre) battle is over as he takes an arrow in the eye.

At the end of the mosaic is a section created by Michael and Rachael after lengthy research to cover what historians believe are two panels missing from the tapestry. They recount the events of the three months following the Battle of Hastings, when William travelled around the country putting down remaining pockets of resistance and was finally crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day.

Creating the mosaic – which holds the Guinness world record for the largest spring steel mosaic – was itself a monumental undertaking. The tiles, each one measuring 1/96th of a square inch, were originally the teeth of patterning disks used in industrial knitting machines, each one individually broken off. Once washed clean in white spirit, the teeth were placed on a glass plate and pushed together.

Once a strip of tiles 2 x 12 inches had been assembled, masking tape was placed over it to hold the tiles in place. So that the light colour of the masking tape did not show through the gaps between the tiles, black shoe polish (Kiwi, of course) was rubbed over the surface and afterwards cleaned off the tiles.

A paper drawing of the entire tapestry was then prepared by Rachael, which was used as the basis for drawing a faint outline of the figures and objects on the metal surface. The colours were then applied in enamel paint by Michael using a tiny 00 size nylon brush. Eight colours were used, as in the original tapestry. One colour was applied to the whole mosaic at a time – that saved an awful lot of cleaning of the paintbrush, Michael said. First was silver, which took a year to apply, then came gold, which took close to two years, and so on. When the painting was finished, three coats of polyurethane varnish were applied.

mosaic 3Michael hopes other towns will be interested in exhibiting the mosaic, which until it came to Hastings, had only been on display in New Zealand. The Lintons have brought it here at their own cost, an expensive exercise. They were helped in mounting the exhibition by their good friend and Hastings resident Peter Cocker. Michael also acknowledged the assistance of Hastings Borough Council and its marketing and major projects manager Kevin Boorman in arranging the exhibition, which forms part of the town’s commemorations of the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

And while the family is over here – Michael’s wife Gillian has also come – they hope to hop across the channel to see the work of art that made the mosaic possible – the Bayeux Tapestry itself.


1066: A Medieval Mosaic To Monday 31 October at St Mary in the Castle, 7 Pelham Crescent, Hastings TN34 3AF. Open every day 10am-5pm, admission by donation. At least one of the Linton family will be on hand to talk to visitors during the exhibition.


Posted 20:17 Sunday, Aug 21, 2016 In: Home Ground

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