Tactile Textile exhibition at Guildhall Gallery

Press Release: 01/05/2007

Tools that were used hundreds of years ago to produce textiles are featuring in a new Guildhall Gallery exhibition, to compliment the highly successful residence by Alice Kettle.

Staff at Winchester City Council's Museums Service have been busy looking through some of the reserve collections for a small exhibition including objects used for spinning, weaving and dyeing, as well as for needlework and embroidery.

This theme is in keeping with international textile artist Alice Kettle's present commission which is a work of textile art for the new Winchester Discovery Centre.

Because of the rich farmland around Winchester, plant- and animal- products - especially wool and flax - were very important in the past. The imperial fulling mill which supplied the Roman army with cloth throughout the entire province of Britannia was apparently sited at Venta, quite likely Venta Belgarum, the Roman name for Winchester. The city was also a major centre for the medieval wool and cloth trade, second in the region only to Salisbury.

The City Council's Curator of Archaeology, Helen Rees said: "In these mechanised times, and now that we import much more cloth than we make ourselves, its easy to forget how labour-intensive it was for people to clothe themselves and furnish their houses in the days before the Industrial Revolution. Everyone joined in, and this is reflected in the hundreds of artefacts from archaeological excavations we have in store.

"How some of these objects were used is not difficult to guess because they're similar to their counterparts today," she added. "But the purposes of others are not immediately obvious - we hope people's curiosity will be aroused to come along and find out."

The people of Winchester were skilled in needlework as well. The sisters of the Nunnaminster, which stood in Abbey View Gardens in the 10th Century, were renowned for it. Several examples of their work survive, including the gold-embroidered vestments they made for St Cuthbert, now housed in Durham Cathedral.

Some scholars credit the sisters with weaving the Bayeux tapestry on the same site, a century or so later.

The Tactile Textile exhibition runs until July 30 2007. For more information ring 01962 848 269, or visit www.winchester.gov.uk. Admission is free.