Gideon Tapestries

This set of thirteen tapestries, which form an important part of an internationally significant collection of textiles, have hung in the Long Gallery at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, since the end of the 16th century. The Gideon Tapestries are a unique document of both Flemish tapestry production and English taste in the 16th century, and are the largest tapestry set to survive in Britain today. This 24-year long conservation project, carried out by hand using traditional sewing and stitching techniques, exemplifies the National Trust‘s commitment to preservation. Generous support from individual and corporate funders, including The David Webster Charitable Trust and the Wolfson Foundation, enabled the realisation of this ambitious endeavour.

Gideon Tapestries, Hardwick Hall, UNITED KINGDOM

The conservation project of the Gideon Tapestries was initiated following the removal of one of the tapestries, which revealed the extensive vulnerabilities of each textile. Hardwick Hall was then galvanised into commissioning a condition report on the entire set. A detailed specification was provided by Danielle Bosworth, one of the early pioneers in the art of tapestry conservation. The report specified a traditional stitched treatment, working through to a full linen scrim support, the proposed treatment of areas of loss, use of fabric in-fills and tapestry patches and suitable materials. Through these meticulous conservation efforts, the textiles have been stabilised, allowing for enhanced readability and understanding of their narrative.

The overarching result of this 24-year process of conservation is that these internationally significant tapestries have been safeguarded for another 100 years for generations to enjoy. The conservation has ensured that the tapestries can be read more coherently and that we can gain a better understanding of their significance and impact, both in the Elizabethan era and now.

Gideon Tapestries, Hardwick Hall, UNITED KINGDOM

New techniques, for instance the washing system which was developed for cleaning very dirty but delicate tapestries, will inform future textile restoration projects. The sustainability of the project is also remarkable, in that the tapestries were regarded as a complete whole as opposed to individual objects. This meant developing a set of working practices from the start, to ensure continuity throughout, even if the people involved changed.

The project has also had a huge impact educationally as the tapestries were used over the years for all interns at the textile studios as a teaching aide to gain experience in the delicate process of textile conservation.

Plans for future programming and outreach will enhance visitor experiences and promote wider cultural appreciation of the tapestries. This initiative’s European significance is evident in the collaboration with international partners, especially in Belgium.


This 24-year endeavor exemplifies unparalleled dedication and collaboration, showcasing the depth of European heritage preservation. Through meticulous research the remarkable Gideon Tapestries have been safeguarded for future generations. The collaboration with Belgian textile experts underlines its European significance. The project’s longevity emphasises a commitment to excellence, while the innovative solutions that were developed highlight a resolve in overcoming challenges. This project is a testament to professionalism and the level of skill in conservation which are often unseen, but are very much worthy of celebration”, the Awards’ Jury commented.

Contact: Liz Waring, Hardwick Hall, National Trust | |