Braishfield Tapestry

The Braishfield TapestryThe Braishfield canvas

Introduction to the Test Valley Tapestry

The Test Valley Tapestry is the brainchild of Mr. Laurie Porter, who, as Mayor of the Borough of Test Valley during 1983, conceived the idea that the natural beauty and rich and varied history of the area should be portrayed in an interesting and creative way, through the involvement of enthusiastic and dedicated members of the community.

Little did he know that as a result of his early ideas, the coming years would see the making of a total of 19 tapestry panels. In 1990 the finished tapestries were received by the Worshipful the Mayor of Test Valley, Councillor Mrs Pamela White, on behalf of Test Valley Borough Council.

The tapestries are as rich and varied as the area they depict, with the common thread of the River Test and its tributaries running through them. All embrace an abundance of wildlife and a pageant of history, but their principal features are the buildings and beauty spots which populate the valley. In total fifty-five villages and local market towns are represented. In addition, local characters can be found walking their dogs, Army Air Corps helicopters from Middle Wallop buzz the skies along with ghosts of aircraft past, anglers try their luck in the Test and children fish the village pond or dance around the Maypole.

The tapestries contain a wealth of detail which awaits close inspection and all the panels bear tribute to the painstaking work of the many members of the community who contributed their time, skills and energy to the completion of this unique portrayal of life in Test Valley.

The tapestries were funded by the Test Valley Borough Council Lottery Fund and are now hung in the Conference Rooms at the Council Offices, Beech Hurst, in approximate geographical order from north to south, as shown on the inside front cover of the Viewing Guide.

The tapestry is available for viewing. Please contact the Arts Officer on 01264 368844, or email:

For further reading on the tapestries and the social and historical aspects of Test Valley, a full colour book is available from the council offices, in both paperback and hardback. 

The making of the tapestry by Robina Orchard

The project began with the original ideas for the tapestries, illustrating the character of village life, being designed by a variety of people, from local artists to imaginative enthusiasts through pencil drawings, pastels and watercolours. The next stage involved the selection of the colours to be used. This was achieved by breaking down one of the designs into groups of appropriate greens, yellows, blues, reds etc., excluding pure black and white, to establish the colour principles which would be applied throughout the making of the whole tapestry. Appleton’s Crewel wools were ordered and each village was supplied with a set. Some villages added a few additional shades.

Books illustrating canvas work stitches were consulted by those who were not too experienced and these helped the needle men and women create stitches which beautifully portrayed details of the local flora and fauna and the rich textures and patterns found in both our natural and man-made worlds. To separate tapestry borders from the central scenes, ‘long armed cross’ or ‘plaited Slav’ stitches were used throughout, again to maintain overall design continuity.

The canvas used was 16 mesh, i.e. 16 threads to a square inch, incorporating 256 stitches of crewel wool per square inch. Each stitch was created using two or three strands of different coloured wool, to ensure the successful blending of shades and thereby adding depth and realism to the overall impression, like painting with a needle.

Before stitching began most of the designs were drawn onto the canvas using waterproof ink. Others were worked directly from drawings. In some cases canvasses had to be joined. This was done by backstitching them together using every hole of the canvas. Ideally the seam was opened and the remaining design stitched over the seam turning. This technique only works where the needlework on each canvas to be joined stops about half an inch from the edge, so it was not always practicable to adhere to this rule.

Although the panels retain1 a design uniformity in terms of colour and scale, the villages tackled the project in various ways depending not only on the artistic talent available, but also on ideas as to who should be involved. In some cases the panel was designed and worked by a single person, in others all those who wanted to, whether young or old, were encouraged to contribute a few stitches. The tapestries all beautifully capture the individuality and character of each village and parish within Test Valley, and everyone who took part in it should feel very proud.

The Braishfield Canvas

The canvases are joined in threes. The Braishfield canvas has Michelmersh to its left and Lockerley to the right.

Top Border: Mesolithic Man from the largest find in Great Britain excavated at Broom Hill by the Test Valley Archaeological Society;. a Roman Villa at Fern Hill; the oak tree, the village emblem, stands in the school grounds; the red coat soldier and the flags represent the semaphore station known to have been one of a chain during the Napoleonic period; The fire in basket is a cresset beacon which hangs in the vestry at Farley Chamberlayne Church, hung high in the rafters, could date from the reign of Edward III. It was used at Farley Mount at the time of the Armada when a signal of fire stretched across the land gave a warning of the Spanish Fleet’s approach.

Middle Section: The large house at the top is Braishfield Manor with hackney pony and trap (once bred by the owner of the manor, Mrs King). In the other comer is the memorial on Farley Mount, also featured in the King’s Somborne panel, which is known for the monument and burial place of a horse that leapt into a chalk pit saving its rider and later winning a race under the name “Beware Chalk Pit”. To the lower right is the red brick parish church of All Saints. To the left of the parish church is the United Reformed Church. In the centre of the panel is the imposing War Memorial. The village pond is on the right, with children playing on the banks. The willow tree is no longer there, but children regularly feed the resident ducks and moorhens. Below the pond is the school; children play netball in the playground. Below and to the left of the United Reformed Church is a scarecrow, recalling that Pucknell Farm in the parish was used as ‘Scatterbrook Farm’ for the television series ‘Worzel Gummidge’ starring Jon Pertwee. The public house is the Newport Inn. In the bottom left comer is a remarkable village character Reginald Guy (Boxer) Old with his steam tractor ‘Boxer’s Beauty’.

Lower Border: Representative plant and wild life; ragged robin, cedar tree (several grow in the gardens of the larger houses); cowslip; wild orchid; bluebell; foxglove; hare; field mouse; fox; peacock butterfly and dragonfly.

Designed by: Mrs Marilyn Madigan
Embroidered by: Principal embroiderer – Mrs Ruby Payn – The Headmaster (Mr Miles) and children of the village school and

Mrs J Alford Mrs E Eustace Mrs E Oliver Ms E Stuart-Smith
Mrs B Bell Mrs J Fare Mrs M Penton Mrs E Sheppard
Miss S Boothman Mrs M Glister Mrs P Roe Mrs G Van-Rooijen
Mrs M Dunford Mrs E Kidd Mrs D Selka Mrs F Vrostos
Mrs L Ellison Mrs M Madigan Mrs M Sleeman