Sheldon Tapestries

The other day, I got the opportunity to help someone create a name for her persona. This lady had been in the SCA for a while now, and, now that she had become her shire’s minister of Arts & Sciences, it was time for a proper name.

We made some brilliant discoveries that I would like to share with you!

We have all heard of the Bayeux tapestry. But have you heard of the Sheldon Tapestries?

The Sheldon Tapestries are the four tapestry-woven maps commissioned in the late 1580s by Ralph Sheldon (1537–1613), based on the county surveys of Christopher Saxton.

The tapestries illustrated the counties of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Oxfordshire, with each tapestry portraying one county. Designed to hang together in Ralph Sheldon’s home in Weston, near Long Compton, Warwickshire, they would have presented a view across central England, from the Bristol Channel to London, covering the counties where Sheldon’s family and friends held land. The maps are important in showing the landscape of central England in the 16th century, at a time when modern map making was in early development.

In 1570 Ralph Sheldon’s father, William, laid out plans which would,if successful,set up a new tapestry weaving business in his manor house at Barcheston, Warwickshire. A Flemish tapestry maker, Richard Hyckes, lived there rent-free on condition that he organised the weaving of tapestries and textiles.

Photo courtesy of Warwickshire Museum Service

This piece depicts the tapestry map Warwickshire (c. 4 x 5 metres)  in the late Elizabethan period  and is the only complete tapestry of the four Sheldon Tapestry Maps to survive.  It is made of wool, with highlights in silk, it provides information on rivers, towns, and geographical features such as woods and forests

It is Shakespeare’s Warwickshire! That alone makes it a fabulous source for a persona’s place of origin. On the Sheldon Tapestry from Warwickshire, Stratford-upon-Avon is spelled with an E: STRETFORD. Coventry is CONVENTRIE and so on! Go check out this wealth of information!

Please note that the names are not normalised; they contain ‘typos’ which is what we like in medieval sources.

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