Market Harborough
U3A Millennium Tapestry

In the beginning...

In the spring of 1997, Market Harborough U3A decided to mark the new century and the new Millennium. The idea of a tapestry was introduced at a general meeting and was enthusiastically received. Over thirty members volunteered for the embroidery and ten to form a steering committee. At the first meeting of the steering group, Anne Allen became co-ordinator, Eve Pigott the treasurer and the tapestry project was launched.













Designs at an early stage


Designing and Fund-Raising

Once a list of possible subjects for inclusion had been drawn up, helped by the 450 photographs taken by the USA Photographic Group and ideas from suggestion boxes at general meetings, four members of the steering group, Anne Allen, Marjorie Clements, Angela Newport and Sheila Pendered volunteered to design the tapestry.

Over the next eight months the design team met regularly and slowly built up a full-size mock-up on a wall. It was like a giant jigsaw puzzle because of the irregular shapes of the panels and needed a precise mathematical mind to work it all out. This was provided by Angela Newport.

In the early stages a local artist, Frank Scott, was consulted about possible layouts and he gave some pointers. Also, throughout the project, Angela Leather gave invaluable help and advice about the use of colour and stitches. 

Fund-raising began within months of the decision to make the tapestry with coffee mornings, a theatre gala evening, a grand raffle with donated prizes, a sponsored walk, a tombola and a plant sale. Cyril Pigott offered to obtain local sponsorship and throughout the three and a half years Cyril & Eve canvassed local firms and businesses and helped with fund raising. Anne Allen obtained grants from Harborough District Council, the Market Harborough and the Bowdens Charity. She was also  granted an Awards for All (Lottery grant).

One of the first sponsors was a local copy shop who, during the design stage, enlarged and reduced the artwork until it finally fitted. It was then necessary to find a method of transferring the designs onto die canvas. A computer programme which produced an embroidery chart was tried, but proved too difficult and impractical. After experimenting with different methods, a final decision was made to use a light box to transfer an outline drawing onto the canvas.



The Making of the Tapestry











Anne Allen

In June 1998, a workshop was held for the embroiderers; the designs were shown to them and they each selected one that they wanted to work.

Throughout the summer kits were made up consisting of canvas, wool chosen from the selected palette of colours, photographs, a colour copy of the design and, if needed, a frame of the correct size.

Regular workshops started at Brooklands in September 1988 and went on until August 1999. Though the panels were worked at home, the embroiderers attended the workshops to get wool and advice and to discuss progress with the designers and each other.

As the panels were finished they were sent to a specialist firm in Leicester to be stretched.




The last stitch

Joining the panels

Work began on joining the panels and making the outer border in November 1999. It was a slow and difficult task which could only be clone by a small team

As Angela Newport had been responsible for fitting together the original designs, she seemed the obvious person to organise this stage and for nine months she was 'chief engineer' of the project. Each panel was joined with great care and precision, with embroidery  covering each seam, creating the illusion of one large single piece of canvas. The borders  and corners were finally added with the last stitch going in at 5.45pm on 26th August 2000. A special thanks is due to all those who worked on the 'joining up' stage for all their commitment and patience; Anne Allen, Jane Bar rows, Thelma Cant, Elsie Faye, Peggy  Hartley, Ann Hawkins, Bunty Jones, Elizabeth Maclean, Eve Pigott, Margot Shepherd, Audrey Walker and of course Angela Newport, who lived with it for nine months and worked many extra hours, measuring, stretching and stitching.



Work in progress (showing the quarter size mock-up)



Almost all of the designers and embroiderers.

At Last!

The tapestry was unveiled on 15th November 2000 at the Pen Lloyd Library, Market Harborough, 

 2014 re-sited in the refurbished Council offices


The Tapestry Details

  Size:  290cm x 161cm (114in x 631/2)  
  Wool: Appleton's Crewel  
  Canvas: 14 holes to the inch  
  Began: May 1997  
  Finished: August 2000  
  Embroiderers: 46  
  Panels: 60  


Displayed on permanent loan in the Pen Lloyd Library, Market Harborough. The tapestry belongs to Market Harborough U3A and its guardian is the Market Harborough and the Bowdens Charity.