|It was in 1997 that Knutsford's Millennium
Tapestry was first conceived. The Town Council Millennium Sub-committee
put forward the idea of a "Bayeux" style tapestry to record
Knutsford at the turn of the century.
With sponsorship from the Town Council and the support of Macclesfield
Borough Council, a successful application was made to the Arts Council
of England for a grant under the Arts 4 Everyone Express Scheme
and the Tapestry was officially launched in July 1997. The key to
the grant was that the tapestry would involve the community. A local
artist and embroiderer - Sue Newhouse - was asked to design it.
The task appeared relatively simple, a single panel 10ft x 2 ft,
but as word spread so the tapestry grew. As many photographs of
the shops and houses of Knutsford were taken, people from all over
the town asked if their property would be featured on the canvas.
The answer was always 'if you or a friend can stitch it - then yes
please!' People who had never before held a needle developed their
own style of interpreting buildings, gardens and cars. It has given
many people the confidence to go one step further to design and
create their own tapestries.
The canvas grew and became 5 panels. It was then decided that a
Triptych would look better. The three panels became known as the
'Toft Panel' on the left, the 'Canute Panel' in the centre and the
'Tatton Panel' on the right. The tapestry depicts the Town of Knutsford
at the turn of the century and shows the many different styles of
architecture which make Knutsford the attractive town it is. Everyday
life, from dog walking to Knutsford's Royal May Day, mothers out
with their children, Egerton Football Team playing, children on
skate boards, ducks on the Moor pond, workmen digging up the roads,
a wedding at Tatton Hall and even a lovers tiff. Many more events
can be seen scattered around the three panels.
All the buildings were photographed one by one, and were then drawn
onto the canvas using a laundry or fabric pen, alterations - if
needed - were painted out with tippex. The photograph, canvas, frame,
a variety of wools and needles were then delivered to volunteers
waiting to stitch. Usually two, sometimes three threads of different
shades were used on the needle at a time. This blending of colours
helped to produce lovely shades of brickwork and trees.
The canvas would be collected after stitchers had completed their
piece and this was then painstakingly added to the main canvas by
clouding trees either side and over the top of houses. When the
pieces were assembled the joins were disguised by stitching a wall
or path, you will notice that this change of colour helps to distract
The tapestry was first displayed at The Civic Centre, but as interest
in it grew it became obvious that it needed a more carefully thought
out home where it could be on view every day and have the correct
conditions to preserve it for posterity. A room was offered which
could easily be attached to the Heritage Centre and advice sought
from the museum service as to the correct conditions which it should
be kept in.
Sue Newhouse who masterminded
this feat worked tirelessly and with enormous imagination, creativity
and vision for the four years that it took to complete. She skilfully
guided, taught and inspired the stitchers every inch of the way.
Her talent in designing this masterpiece while involving 3,000 people
is quite unique. She undertook the distribution and collection of
materials and when pieces were completed she redistributed them
for more stitching to be added.
Acclaimed "a masterpiece" by the North West Arts Board
11.04 01 and as "a magnificent achievement" by the Daily
Mail 20.04.01 With coverage by BBC and Granada T.V. and Radio 4,
GMR Radio and BBC Radio Stoke, the tapestry truly celebrates and
commemorates the work of Knutsford people and that of a gifted artist