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The Arms of Sacheverell

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Tapestry: Arms of Sacheverell of Morley, Derbyshire

This small tapestry is one of two which survive, perhaps from a set of six. The arms are those of Sacheverell of Morley, Derbyshire, a once influential family whose position declined throughout the sixteenth century.

©V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London,

The man who commissioned this tapestry was called Henry, whose father may have been a notary in London . Both father and son had need of a profession because the family did not have land to support its younger sons. Henry was apprenticed as a Vintner in 1568, and became a member of the Company of Vintners in 1574. Shortly afterwards, he married and it may have been on this occasion, in December 1577, that he ordered the tapestry.

His wife was Petronella Wheler, daughter of a merchant. Almost certainly her family would have had no claim to arms, and that is why her initial, 'P', at the base of the triangle and hard to see on the photograph, was added to Henry's own, arranged as



When Henry died, his shop was at 'the Still'' Bishopsgate on the eastern side of London , just inside the walls. It had not prospered. Henry died in debt. His small tapestry is a typical possession of the merchant class seeking to claim the status to which they felt as much right as the nobility.

The tapestry is woven from expensive materials, for there is silk as well as wool, and some threads were wrapped in gold or in silver.

The flowers include foxglove, borage, rose, carnation, jonquil, lily of the valley, pansy and marigold, differing from those on its companion piece in the Burrell Collection, Glasgow (47.17). They might have been taken from older pattern books or from one of the newer plant books from publishers in Antwerp sold in St Paul 's churchyard.

The lion head masks and the cowled human faces in the borders are decorative elements widely used in other media - map borders, book title pages, carved wood and sculpture. Like much else in Elizabethan ornamentation, the motifs were borrowed from printed sources, themselves inspired by artists working in the Low Countries and Germany.


Museum No. T.195-1914

Possibly 1578-1580;
19 x 18 1/2" x 19 in (0.46m x 0.48m)
Woollen warps, wool, silk and metal thread
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