The creativity and endeavour of our 'Oakshott community' never ceases to enthral and amaze. Joan Clarke sought us out at the Festival of Quilts to recount the story of the Stitched Panel made by herself and ten fellow stichers for their church in the village of Pleshey, near Chelmsford in Essex, UK. Completed in 2015, it celebrates the village's connection with the Magna Carta of 1215

I discovered by chance that Geoffrey de Mandeville, one of the twenty five Rebel Barons who forced King John to seal the Charter, had lived in Pleshey Castle. We couldn't let this milestone pass unmarked. So I made a rough sketch - ideas on the back of an envelope - a crazy plan to make a Stitched Panel to grace the west wall of the Lady Chapel in Pleshey Church.

Magna Carta Stitched Panel

Computer-aided design

Magna Carta Stitched Panel

Round-table working

Magna Carta Stitched Panel

Deciding on fabrics

 

The Panel was to form a key element of the village's 2015 celebrations. Other events throughout the year included a Medieval Weekend on the Castle Bailey, a Libertea in the Churchyard, a visit to Runnymede, lunch with the Mayor of the City of London at the Mansion House, a staged Medieval Extravaganza, and more.

Magna Carta Stitched Panel

Oak tree in Spring

Magna Carta Stitched Panel

Oakshotts for the backgrounds

Magna Carta Stitched Panel

The middle roundels take shape

Our focus was to mark the occasion by making a community patchwork and quilted embroidery. We worked together for eighteen months to produce the Panel. For greater authenticity, we opted for natural fabrics and threads, using simple hand stitching, just as in medieval times. I chose ecru coloured linen to reflect the sheepskin parchment, with red and yellow cotton Danish Stof (Geoffrey's colours). Oakshott's beautifully rich, regal cottons - a source of inspiration - were to form the backgrounds of six large roundels. They were paired with designs by William Morris, reflecting his obsession with everything Medieval.

 Magna Carta Stitched Panel

Sizing up for the oak frame

Magna Carta Stitched Panel

Each roundel tells a story *

Magna Carta Stitched Panel

Tile detail

 

Clockwise from top: Roundels depict the Crown (King John), Tile design (excavated from the bailey chapel, now in Chelmsford Museum), Scales of Justice, Archbishop's Regalia (Stephen Langton), Bridge (only remaining brick built), Castle (size and shape from excavation)

Magna Carta Stitched Panel

Fitting in all the elements!

Magna Carta Stitched Panel

The last few stitches

Magna Carta Stitched Panel

Ready for transportation

 

There's a story behind every detail. The passage of time was depicted by four oak trees in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, each surrounded by flora which was native to Pleshey, then as now. The typeface, copied from Henry III's tomb in Westminster Abbey, was created using couched braids and silk threads. Then there's the story of the parcel of black cotton fabric, acquired from Chicago via New Zealand...!

 Magna Carta Stitched Panel

Fixing the frame (fingers crossed the Panel will fit!)

Magna Carta Stitched Panel

Stitchers Joan and Gwyneth with frame maker Tony

Magna Carta Stitched Panel

The finished Magna Carta Stitched Panel in situ


We had a wonderful time working together and my knowledge of history improved to the extent that I published my research as a brochure.

In case you're wondering, the finished Panel measures an impressive 9 feet high by 4 feet wide. If you're near Pleshey or passing close by, we urge you to pay a visit - you can't fail to be impressed!

Choose colours for your own heritage project.   More news and inspiration on our Shotthrough blog

Aug 29, 2018

Comments

  • Posted On September 17, 2018 by Susan Shanley

    The photographs only hint at the wonderful intricate work and the vibrant colours on the piece.
    Well worth a slight detour if you are visiting Essex!

Leave a comment