Declaration of Arbroath: Incredible new tapestry marks 700 years of historic document

It took 1,950 hours of needlework but now the final stitches of a tapestry to commemorate the 700th anniversary of  the Declaration of Arbroath are now in place.

Embroiderers admire their work on the new Declaration of Arbroath tapestry which marks 700 years since the signing of the historic document which asserted Scotland's independence and called for Robert the Bruce to be recognised as its lawful king. PIC: HES.

Nine embroidery and textile artists from the Arbroath area created the three-panel work that will go on display at Arbroath Abbey where the declaration, which asserted Scotland's independence and called upon the Pope to acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country's lawful king, was drawn up in 1320.

Today (Monday), the tapestry was handed over to Historic Environment Scotland for safekeeping with the piece to go on show as part of the Arbroath 2020 celebrations.

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Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which manages Arbroath Abbey, said: “We’re delighted to be receiving the Arbroath Tapestry and making it part of the Abbey’s continuing story.

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"This magnificent Tapestry doesn’t just pay tribute to the importance of the Declaration – it also shows how the people of Arbroath are working together in imaginative ways to celebrate the extraordinary history of their town and its Abbey.”

Linda Walker, one of the embroiderers who worked on the piece, said that in-depth research on medieval threads, dyes and stitches was carried out before the needlework got underway.

She said: “We were determined to reflect the materials, colours and style of the tapestries which once adorned the walls of Arbroath Abbey. It’s wonderful that the Arbroath Tapestry will be resurrecting this medieval tradition when it goes on display in the Abbey in April.”

Ms Walker added: “These seals were very tricky as they’re small and very detailed – and had to be accurate depictions of the seals on the original Declaration. Each seal involved hours and hours of research before we even started stitching.

"The Arbroath Tapestry commemorates the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath and the history and heritage of Arbroath Abbey so we’re absolutely thrilled it’s to become part of the Abbey’s collection.

“We created the Arbroath Tapestry for the people of Arbroath so it’s only fitting it will be displayed for all to see within our town’s historic Abbey during the Arbroath 2020 commemorations and beyond”.

The tapestry was received by Historic Environment Scotland at a reception at the Scottish Parliament.

The Declaration of Arbroath is a letter sent from Scotland’s nobles to Pope John in Avignon on April 6, 1320 and is widely acknowledged as one of Scotland’s most important documents.

One extract reads: "For so long as one hundred of us remain alive, we will never in any degree be subject to the dominion of the English, since it is not for glory, riches or honour that we do fight, but for freedom alone, which no honest man loses but with his life."

Angus South MSP Graeme Dey who hosted the event in Parliament, said: “The painstaking work, stretching to almost 2,000 hours in total, on the part of Linda Walker and her team has produced a stunning tapestry which memorably captures the history of the Declaration and all it stands for.

“I’m in no doubt the Tapestry will prove a real crowd puller when it goes on display in the Abbey and everyone fortunate enough to see it, will I am sure marvel at the dedication and skill which has gone into creating it.”

The Arbroath Tapestry’s three richly-coloured panels were designed by Andrew Crummy, designer of the Great Tapestry of Scotland.

The central panel portrays Robert the Bruce and Abbot Bernard of Arbroath writing the Declaration while the two smaller panels represent the role and influence of the Abbey within Arbroath.

The left panel features William I, founder of the Abbey, along with a fisherwoman to reflect the importance of local fishing industry.

The right panel represents the many trades which were involved in building and maintaining the Abbey and depicts two Scottish nobles setting sail to deliver the Declaration to Avignon.

Karen Dick, Interim Head of Place, Partnerships and Communities at Creative Scotland said: “The showcasing of the Arbroath Tapestry in Arbroath Abbey demonstrates the rich cultural heritage of Angus. Creative Scotland’s Angus Place Partnership is supporting the Arbroath 2020 celebrations, and we hope it will increase ambition and opportunity for both artists and audiences across the region.”