The Bristol Tapestries

Bristol Tapestries 6While in Bristol I discovered one of the city’s textiles treasures. When visiting the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery I discovered four ‘tapestries’ depicting the history of Bristol in 27 scenes.

Bristol Tapestries 8My photos are very dodgy because the Bristol tapestries are behind glass. Hopefully, you can get a sense of the scope and feel of the project, as the panels are 22 metres (about 24 yards) in length, and illustrate nearly 1000 years of Bristol’s history in 27 scenes.

Bristol Tapestries 1These ‘tapestries’ like the famous Bayeux ‘tapestry’ are not actually woven textiles but embroidered ones. The four panels are made up of embroidery stitches, appliqué and techniques such as screen printing.

Bristol Tapestries 10Mrs Jean Tanner and Mrs Marjorie Bleasedale came up with the idea in the late 1960s. It took 90 local people working until 1976 to realise the community arts project.

Bristol Tapestries 5Two key things delighted me about these ‘tapestries’. First, I really enjoyed recognising the places I had visited. Even as a tourist I could recognise the local land marks.

Bristol Tapestries 2My second delight was that the people who worked on the Bristol tapestries embroidered their names on the last panel. I loved seeing the signatures, as often textiles are unsigned and people do not know who made them.

Bristol Tapestries 4I have been trawling the internet to find out more about the Bristol tapestries but there is little online with the exception of an entry on the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery website where they have some additional images of the installation process. The Bristol tapestries are an interesting project and when at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, I made inquiries at the shop. I asked about any book or leaflet that might be available about the Bristol tapestries but was not in luck – nothing has been written. I understand the market for a book about this work is very small but I do wish there was more information about them online.

Bristol Tapestries 3The Bristol tapestries is a fascinating insight into the city, its story and community arts. If you ever visit Bristol I hope you manage to see it.

Bristol Tapestries 9

holding my book in front of quiltHave you seen my book?

My book The Visual Guide to Crazy Quilting Design: Simple Stitches, Stunning Results  shares practical methods about how to design and make a crazy quilt. I teach you how to balance colour, texture and pattern, in order direct the viewers eye around a crazy quilted project. I show you how to build decorative seam treatments in interesting and creative ways using a handful of stitches. My book is profusely illustrated as my aim is to be both practical and inspiring.

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17 Responses to The Bristol Tapestries

  1. Victoria Johnson says:


  2. Sue says:

    My son lives in Bristol but I have not had the chance to visit the museum. Will certainly be putting it on the list of places I want to go to!

  3. Ann Bernard says:

    I was unaware of the Bristol Tapestries but am glad to hear of them. They appear to be different to any other embroidered tapestries that are ‘out there’. Yes, it would be great if the Museum had a leaflet or mini-book about them; or, there was information on-line. The 80s were not yesterday and it is easy to lose the personal encounter of those who were involved in their creation.

    PS. The Country Wife in Newberry is not currently available for viewing as it is undergoing restoration. You can see it ‘up close’ on my blog; Stitching Idyllic or search via Ann Bernard.

  4. Marianne Squire-Maszer says:

    Fascinating workmanship! Thanks for sharing.

  5. DIANE Willard says:

    Enjoyed reading. You added another place to put on my wish list to visit when I go to England.

  6. Gaynor Jamieson says:

    Thank you so much for this, Sharon, it was very interesting – I am embarrassed to say I live not far from Bristol and have never visited the museum. I will definitely look up the tapestries, and they seem to have lots of exhibitions there on various textiles, so thanks for the tip! Best wishes, Gaynor

  7. Lesley Whittle says:

    Didn’t know about these. When were they stitched?

  8. Vic Harrison from Tast says:

    I’ve worked with Bristol museum quite a lot, had exhibitions with them…do you want me to see if I can find out anything ? Vic

    • sharonb says:

      Vic if you have time it would be interesting to know more – its unfortunate that they are not more well known

  9. Rachel says:

    I think there would be a market for such a book, you know – I don’t imagine you were the only one to come away longing to know more!

  10. I had totally forgotten about the tapestries! Shame on me! Sadly I think they are very undervalued. I wonder if the Bristol Embroiderers Guild would have any more information?Thanks for a great post about them Sharon!

  11. Jan says:

    Hi Sharon, you may be also interested in ‘The Wife’ at the Museum of Needlework in Newbury, Berkshire. This is a very large wall hanging stitched for The Festival of Britain. It depicts the roles of ‘wives’.

  12. Jacqui Relph says:

    I’m embarrassed to say that I have never heard of the Bristol tapestries. I didn’t realise that you were visiting the UK on your journey this summer. I hope you had a good time. Did you go to see the American patchwork’s in Bath?
    We have just bought a small motor home, so a Bristol city break will be a place to visit this winter.

    • sharonb says:

      Jacqui I did not visit the American museum but I did go to the Fashion museum – I will write that up next week

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