Prestonpans Tapestry is heading back to Paxton

The Prestonpans Tapestry in Paxton House
The Prestonpans Tapestry in Paxton House

HAILEd as the longest in the world, the Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry is an amazing tribute to the Jacobite rising of 1745, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie, and to the commitment of the 200 volunteers who created it and after a successful spell in Berwickshire last year, the Tapestry is back for another stint at Paxton House this week.

The Tapestry is owned by the Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Trust who first had the idea of creating what trustee Arran Johnston has described as a “giant comic book” after receiving a grant from the Scottish Arts Council and Awards for All that enabled Greg Dawson-Allen to become Story Teller of the Battle taking the tale to schools across the county and beyond.

The man chiefed with bringing the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s victory to life was Andrew Crummy, Convenor of the Prestongrange Arts Festival and the principal artist and illustrator of the tapestry.

Stitching of the embroidery was led by Dorie Wilkie. The whole was co-ordinated administratively by Gillian Hart who was also the principal photographer. The handiwork was shared across Scotland and around the world by more than 200 volunteers each of whom has their tag in the bottom right hand corner of their panel.

The final masterpiece was completed in 2010 and now it is currently on a tour that will take in venues across the UK and much further afield, starting at Paxton.

Explaining his involvement in the project, Arran told ‘The Berwickshire News’: “I came onboard the project as a Jacobite historian with a passion for Bonnie Prince Charlie.

“The Trust felt that the Tapestry would work as a vehicle to promote the Battle of Prestonpans further afield and to a modern audience.

“Before any work began on it though we had to decide whether or not the enthusiasm was there for something of that ilk.

“We quickly realised it was but we had no idea that it was going to be as big and that it would be so popular; it really gathered its own legs.”

The main inspiration for the Tapestry was another famous piece of embroidery- the Bayeux Tapestry, which the Baron of Preston Grange had seen while visiting France.

All involved with the 1745 Trust were in agreement that a tapestry was the perfect way of depicting the story of the military conflict and also feeling it important to have a modern twist, have also commissioned an animated piece to go with it.

“The film will get its debut at Paxton House,” Arran explained.

“It in itself has been a large scale and far flung project; we’ve had animations teams on the continent working hard on it.

“Having the animation has been a big driving force in changing the way we put the story of the battle across.

“We’ve got the traditional element with the story of the battle and the embroidery mixed with the modern animation.”

The Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry will be in Paxton House until April 18 and will then get ready for a tour which will span various continents.

“We’ve got definite plans to take it to France to Brittany- the port from which Bonnie Prince Charlie set sail from all those years ago,” Arran continued.

“We’re also taking it to British Colombia to a town called Chemainus, which is also famous for its murals. The biggest seal of approval we’ve had so far is the praise our tapestry had from the cultural officer for the Bayeux Tapestry- you can’t really get better than that.

“Although the Battle of Prestonpans will never be as famous as the Bayeux Tapestry, from my perspective it is the most comprehensive telling of that part of history and what makes it so effective is the fact that it was worked on by people with local knowledge so the anecdotes and personal stories are all in there, whereas with some exhibits there is a tendency for them to get lost.”

To coincide with the Prestonpans Tapestry’s time at Paxton House, on the weekend of March 31/April 1 there will be living history encampments and battle re-enactments to really bring the story to life.

The fictitious storyline is that an advance party of Jacobite soldiers comes to the Paxton estate to seek supplies for Prince Charlie’s army, only to discover that part of the Berwick garrison is lodged there: skirmishes and counter-attacks continue across the weekend.

In the meantime, for more information on the tapestry visit www.battleofprestonpans1745.org.