Student weavers commemorate Edinburgh landmarks

Rebecca MacKay designed the tapestry. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Rebecca MacKay designed the tapestry. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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STUDENT weavers have stitched themselves into the annals of one the Royal Mile’s most famous landmarks by creating a tapestry to commemorate more than four centuries of history.

Members of the Workers’ Educational Association’s (WEA) Stitching Times group, who meet at the A-listed Riddle’s Court, have created a 17-panel tapestry which will hang on the walls of the Orwell Room.

Among those to have lived and worked in the famed building include leading philosopher and Scottish Enlightenment figure Sir David Hume, while one of the city’s great thinkers, Sir Patrick Geddes, regularly held summer schools within its walls.

The wall hanging took a team of 18 weavers 32 hours to create.

It was designed by Rebbecca Mackay and the colours were picked to give a stained glass effect.

Each of its 17 panels symbolises or depicts an event that has taken place within 
or around Riddle’s Court, such as King James VI and the 
Danish Royal family surveying the banquet room in 1598; 
Sir David sitting in a chair with a cat on his lap; and 
Sir Patrick, widely recognised as the founding father of the town-planning profession, standing with outstretched arms to encourage people back to the Old Town.

Riddle’s Court dates back to 1590, and among the wealth of influential and creative people to have lived and worked in the Old Town building over its four centuries are James VI, the Lord Chancellor Alexander Seton, Sir John Clerk of Penicuik and the Duchess of ­Buccleuch.

In more recent times as a Fringe Festival venue, it has provided a performance space for celebrities such as Dame Maggie Smith and Stephen Fry. Its condition has deteriorated, and it is set to be 
given a new lease of life as the Patrick Geddes Centre 
for Learning and Conservation – a project which will cost £5.5 million.

Una Richards, chief executive of Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, which is managing the city council-owned building, said: “The tapestry 
signifies the threads that tie the history of Riddle’s Court to the present day and we appreciate the enormous amount of skill that has gone into it.”

Riddle’s Court comprises a series of buildings set around a small courtyard off the Lawnmarket and is one of the finest surviving merchant’s houses on the Royal Mile.

City council culture convenor, Councillor Richard Lewis, said: “This tapestry is a welcome addition to the fabric of this magnificent 16th-century building. Riddle’s Court is a wonderful place in the middle of the World Heritage Site and I am glad to see it being restored and renovated by the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust.”

The tapestry will be on view to members of the public during the Fringe from August 2-26 and during the annual Doors Open Day on September 28.

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com