The Basing House 'Raised Work' Embroidery

The Basing House 'Raised Work' Embroidery, dating from between 1600 to 1669.

For many centuries needles and threads have been used to embroider stories. This 17th century embroidery is a wonderful piece of 'raised work' or 'stump work', achieved by drawing on to a background of ivory silk satin which was then worked up into a three-dimensional 'raised' picture by stitching over areas padded with wool or cotton. Tiny features such as hands and feet were carved from boxwood and applied to the design. The motifs were taken from pattern books, and appear on many samplers and embroideries of the time.

The Basing House stump work shows a grand house and the motto of the Paulet family and dates to about 1660-1665, following the restoration of King Charles II to the throne. Details in the embroidery tell of the adventures of Charles during the English Civil War. As a fugitive from Cromwell's soldiers he had once hidden in an oak tree at Boscobel House in Shropshire, represented in the embroidery by an oak tree with acorns. His return from exile in France is symbolized by the image of the sun coming out from under the clouds.

Charles himself is shown standing in front of a canopied throne, a spaniel and two lions at his feet, as his Queen, Catherine of Braganza, and her ladies approach. The shadowy figure may represent the Marquis of Winchester, and there are emblems traditionally associated with Hampshire, such as the Tudor Rose and the Hampshire hog.

17th century raised work embroideries suffer because the stitches and raised work are much heavier than the base fabrics. Where they have been hung vertically, and subjected to daylight, the fabric becomes brittle and fragmented. Since the Basing House embroidery was acquired by the Museum it has been remounted and is now displayed horizontally, in an environmentally controlled showcase with low light levels, to safeguard it for future generations.

The embroidery was purchased in 1991 by Hampshire County Council Museums and Archives Service, with grant aid from the Victoria and Albert Museum; Museums and Galleries Commission Purchase Grant Fund; the National Art Collections Fund and the Friends of The Willis Museum. The case was purchased by the Friends of the Willis, with help from Hampshire County Council Museums and Archives Service; the Friends of Basing House and Basingstoke Archaeological and Historical Society.