The Society's seal and three photographs

Virtual Museum

John Collingwood-Bruce’s Paper Copy Of The Bayeux Tapestry

Without the benefit of modern ways of viewing the Bayeux Tapestry, this facsimile was a novel way for people to get an idea of the sheer scale of the original Norman embroidery. Our member, John Collingwood-Bruce commissioned the 70m long copy in 1851. It was drawn by his friend, John Moffat (brother-in-law of the famous explorer, David Linvingstone) and coloured in by his students at Percy Street Academy in Newcastle.   Once completed, Collingwood-Bruce used it as a teaching aid and took it when he went round Europe giving lectures. There are only three other Victorian copies of the Bayeux Tapestry in England, one of them a full-size embroidery currently in Reading Museum.

In 1884, Collingwood-Bruce donated the facsimile to SANT, who displayed it in their library at the Black Gate Museum. It ran around the top of the walls as a frieze. Over the years the bookcases were extended upwards, hiding sections of the tapestry copy. These sections were probably by now very dirty due to the atmospheric pollution from both the railway and the small fire lit in the Library, and were probably not considered very important. What was visible was taken down in the early 1960s when the archaeological material was moved up to the Museum of Antiquities and the room was redecorated to house the Bagpipe Museum. These pieces were rolled up and put in a cupboard and rediscovered in 1990. They were then taken to the Discovery Museum where they are currently in storage awaiting conservation.

The rest of the tapestry had been virtually forgotten. It was thought there might be some left behind the bookshelves but no-one really knew. In early July 2013, the builders in the Black Gate discovered a section of the tapestry when they were taking down some of the bookshelves in advance of new interpretation being created. It was taken off the walls under controlled ‘watching brief’ conditions and is currently in the Castle Keep.

Cleaning the copy

We are planning to clean it over the next few months. We need a small group of volunteers, armed firstly with soft static brushes to get the loose muck off; then, very carefully, to use artists' erasers to clean further. It will probably involve one afternoon a week or so in the Castle Keep, and may also function as a display to visitors of working conservation!

Collingwood-Bruce in the Cathedral

John Collingwood-Bruce is buried in Jesmond cemetery, but has a marble memorial in St Nicholas Cathedral. It needs conservation to the tune of £8,000 and SANT will be leading a fundraising campaign for this. Collingwood-Bruce also paid for the restoration of St Margaret’s Chapel in the Cathedral, dedicated to the memory of his wife; the windows depict important historical women such as St Hild.

In the future, don’t forget your past