Like many of us, I have been reminiscing about places I have visited rather than planning new trips. Gawthorpe Hall is somewhere that definitely merits another visit when it is possible to travel further afield once more.
Some years ago, I was privileged to go to Gawthorpe Hall with a party of Cross Stitch Guild Members. We were made very welcome indeed, in spite of the fact the main hall had to be closed for essential maintenance work – a ceiling was about to fall down! The team at this lovely house organised us perfectly by moving the Shuttleworth Textile Exhibit to a safe place and hosting us in outbuildings and their offices.
The collection’s namesake, Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth, was the last family member to live at this Elizabethan country house in Lancashire. She was a maker, teacher, collector, philanthropist and social activist who started amassing textile and craft items as early as 1912 to help her to teach heritage techniques.
To quote from the charity that cares for the collection: “Rachel taught out in the community and opened up Gawthorpe Hall to the public as a “craft house”. Her collection was created, not through wealth, but through donations of textile and craft items from her broad networks of family, friends and acquaintances.
“Rachel was much ahead of her time in her knowledge that creativity and craft unlocked health, social and economic prospects for those in the community most in need. The charity continues to deliver Rachel’s ethos of providing learning opportunities, working with the local community and promoting participation in crafts as a tool for supporting individual wellbeing and fulfilment”.
I think we all feel the same about keeping traditional craft techniques alive for future generations. Rachel’s motto says it all:
Cherish the past, adorn the present, create for the future
My visit was part of a special stitching weekend, which of course included a practical element or a chance to ‘adorn the present’! I had designed a stitching project specially for the weekend and our group settled down to stitch after viewing the collection. I’m reproducing the design here for you to try too. A lovely piece to stitch on linen, and a chance to play with threads from your own stash if you don’t have those listed to hand. The coloured blocks represent cross stitches made in two stranded of stranded cotton. The lettering is more delicate, so is stitched in one strand of backstitch.
There are over 30,000 pieces of textiles, embroidery, furnishing and more in the collection which is housed permanently at Gawthorpe Hall. It is a stunning National Trust property, so do look out for news of when it opens again.