In November 2015 the Church Council invited Poppy Singer, an independent textile conservator, to examine our ‘God, Man, and Creation’ woollen tapestry.
Woven to a design by the Amsterdam artist Hans van Norden using the imagery of the Garden of Eden, this splendid composition has been on open display on the south wall of the Dutch Church since the 1960s. It is therefore not surprising that Poppy discovered it is now in urgent need of a really good clean. Working on a platform scaffold erected she drew a cosmetic sponge over the accessible surface finding it to be instantly covered in a layer of thick dark soot. Fortunately, she did not discover any additional insect damage.
Poppy has subsequently provided a detailed plan of action. Once lowered, using the existing pulley system, the tapestry’s soiled linen backing will first have to be removed before surface cleaning can take place using vacuum suction with special museum hoovers. A firm of specialised fine art packers will then need to transport the rolled tapestry to the Royal Manufacturers De Wit in Mechelen, Belgium. This is the only workshop in Europe that has the facilities to undertake the controlled cleaning of large tapestries, and, at 7.6 metres in length, ours ranks as particularly enormous. Once there it will be laid flat for wet-cleaning.
From Mechelen the tapestry will need to be taken to Poppy’s conservation studio at St. Albans for its new linen backing. The fact that this has to be hand stitched is yet another reason why the conservation estimate comes in at around £10,000. The Church Council will clearly need to approach small and large donor(s) in order to ensure the specialised restoration of this important artefact for its second half century.
The Church Council