A report in today’s Evening Standard says the museums leading the race to host the Bayeux tapestry when it comes to the UK in five years time are the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum – both in London.
The report does mention Battle Abbey as what it describes as a third ‘plausible’ candidate to play host to the world’s most famous piece of needlework.
Today’s report in the Standard barely even mentions Hastings itself and does not even acknowledge the fact that there is a campaign backed by local MP Amber Rudd and Hastings Borough Council (HBC) to bring the tapestry to Hastings itself.
It was during a visit to the UK in January that French president Emmanuel Macron announced that France would loan tapestry to the UK. Since then a local campaign has been growing to bring the tapestry to Hastings, which, according to HBC leader Peter Chowney is, “the logical place to display it.” Meanwhile Ms Rudd has said: “There are many good places in the UK where it could be displayed but I can think of none better than here in Hastings – the heart of 1066 country and the town which gives its name to the events of the tapestry’s famous final scenes.”
Mr Chowney has gone so far as to put forward a plan for where the tapestry could be exhibited if it does come to Hastings. He has outlined plans for a purpose built venue. He said this week: “There are some existing venues in town that could be possible, but my preferred option would be to display it in a new, purpose-built venue. The council has had a plan for some time to build a new two-storey visitor centre for Hastings Castle on the West Hill. This would incorporate a level-access walkway from the upper floor to ‘Ladies’ Parlour’, the field immediately east of the castle, with access to the castle over a new bridge to the original main gateway of the castle.
“So far, there has been no funding to build the visitor centre, but the upper floor would seem to be an ideal place to display the tapestry, so people could walk directly to Hastings Castle, William’s first castle in England, along the walkway after viewing the tapestry. This could help to get the funding needed to build the visitor centre, which could be fitted out as a museum and visitor centre after the tapestry leaves.
“It’s just an idea at the moment, but one we’re working on,” says Mr Chowney.
As for the tapestry itself it has left Bayeux only twice before; once in 1803, for the edification of Napoleon Bonaparte; then on the orders of Heinrich Himmler in 1944. Britain made unsuccessful formal requests to the French government that the tapestry be returned to the UK, first for the coronation in 1953, and then again in 1966 when it was hoped to include the tapestry in a celebration to mark to mark the 900th anniversary of the battle.
In today’s Evening Standard Tristram Hunt, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, says: “Whichever institution gets to host it — and the V&A would be very, very keen to do so — it would be very much a collaborative venture.”
The English Heritage spokesman for Battle Abbey, Michael Murray-Fennell tells the ‘paper: “All the various institutions are committed to working together and wherever the tapestry is displayed, its arrival should be celebrated right across the country.”
At the British Museum a spokesman pointedly says: “We are the most visited institution in Britain.”
As for Battle Abbey’s chances Mr Murray-Fennell says: “It would be an incredible opportunity to see the most famous account of the most famous battle in our history on the site where it actually happened.”
There are no quotes included in the Standard’s piece from anyone representing Hastings’ bid to bring the tapestry to the town.
Read the full Evening Standard article here.