The Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry
Launched Greenhills, Prestonpans, 26 July 2010
104 panels, each 0.5m by 1m
Involved over 250 stitchers
The commission was to design and draw out each panel. It turned out the first of many tapestries I would draw and design.
It depicts the Journey of "Bonnie Prince Charlie" across Scotland to The Battle of Prestonpans in 1745
A 104 metre tapestry, that tells the story of the journey of Jacobite Rebellion from Rome to The Battle of Prestonpans. It has involved many in its production. Creating the visual story that is based on research mainly from the book Battle of Prestonpans 1745 by Martin Margulies. Although I have used a much wider net, Martin's Book has been the main inspiration. The original idea came from Gordon Prestoungrange after he saw the Bayeux Tapestry. It has involved 260+ stitchers, 10 million stitches, 3000 metres of thread and been produced in Scotland, England, Ireland, USA, Australia and France.
The tapestry is a simple timeline, every five panels are stitched together. The interesting aspect of the project was it told a part of his story that was little known.
Since producing it 10 years ago, it has become apparent that Bonnie Prince Charlie is an emotive subject in Scottish history, with supporters and non-supporters. He is a contested figure. Even aspects of the history such as where was the battlesite, clothing, clans etc are discussed and contested. There are many experts and detractors all with valid points to make.
When creating the tapestry these issues were reflected in the stitchers from Prestonpans and beyond. Designing the tapestry I concentrated on just trying to visually tell the storyline as precisely as possible. Making sure as much as possible it was accurate. Double checking all visual aspects and events as did the stitchers. Also sourcing most of the visual information as well. So lots of reading, etc. So constructing a visual narrative took time, many many sketches. Lots of emails and conversation too.
As it was a community arts project, I worked closely with Dorie Wilkie (chief stitcher) and the stitchers. Every Thursday morning for 8 months was an open workshop in my studio and it was always a joy to behold the skill of the stitchers. The vast amount of the conversation was about this love and joy of embroidery. What created the unity and was the craft of embroidery and telling a story, the laughter and joy of these women. It was women who made this tapestry with a few men.
The impact the tapestry made was amazing.
For me it opened the door to discover that history is far wider and more complex and many other stories need to be told.
As a Craigmillar style Community Arts project it reflected a way of working where in the end it is celebrating all of the people involved in this project and their creativity and knowledge.
Similar to the different interpretations of the history of The battle of Prestonpans, there are different interpretations of how this tapestry was created. Long may that continue, as that is what history is about. For me one day I will write my version, and troll through the evidence! But not today.
Tapestry design and drawing copyright © Andrew Crummy