What links a Queen, three cushions and a governor’s lady?

The answer is a volunteer project which has produced three new pieces of costume and furnishing for the National Trust Avebury Manor to bring to life the Tudors, Georgians and Queen Anne for visitors to experience.

The volunteer sewing group, which consists of fourteen individuals, have been working on this project for over a year and have produced a number of new items to enhance the experience of visiting Avebury Manor.

It is thought that at some point in the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714) she visited and dined at Avebury Manor, so the group have produced a luxurious wrap similar to those shown in many of her portraits, and which may well have warmed her on her long coach journeys from London to Bath.

Ann Williamson and her husband inherited Avebury Manor in 1789 and shortly afterwards Adam was sent to Jamaica where he became Governor of the colony. Mrs Williamson followed him some months later and before doing so would undoubtedly have ordered new clothes to be made for the hot climate she would shortly be facing. To reflect this the sewing group have made a  light dress in the style of that time using materials –  cotton muslin with a blue silk sash – which occur in bills to Mrs Williamson now held in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, Chippenham.

Tudor rooms were rich with textiles, few of which survive, so in one of the rooms which represent the Tudor period at Avebury Manor three cushions have been introduced to show this aspect of Tudor interiors. Rather than being a modern fashion, floor cushions were often used in Tudor times and the sewing group have created three luxurious cushions each reflecting an aspect of Avebury Manor’s Tudor history: one reflects the heraldry of the Dunch family who owned the Manor, one has a monogram of William and Mary Dunches’ initials and one displays a Tudor Rose which would have demonstrated their allegiance to the Crown.

Dawn Gill, House Steward of Avebury Manor, who designed the cushions and wrap said ‘Our fabulous team of volunteers have worked so hard, with such dedication, precision and professionalism that we are incredibly proud to show off their work – and like all items in Avebury Manor, it’s hands-on, so we’ll be encouraging people to sit on the cushions, snuggle down in the wrap and try on the dress.’

These items will be on display at selected times and a talk about the project, ‘Threads of History’, is taking place at Avebury Manor on 14 November which will explain how the dress, wrap and cushions were made and the history behind them. This will be followed by an opportunity to be the first visitors to try them, with plenty of time to take photographs. There will also be time to explore the needlecraft involved in creating the pieces with the volunteers who made them. To find out more go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury


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