The Sheldon Tapestry Map of Warwickshire is the only complete survivor from a set of four tapestry maps commissioned in the 1590s by Ralph Sheldon for his new home of Weston House in South Warwickshire.
The tapestries depicted the counties of Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, and were made to hang together to present a dramatic and colourful panorama of the English Midlands stretching from London to the Bristol Channel. The Warwickshire tapestry, measuring 5.1m x 3.9m, and woven mainly in wool with silk used to highlight key areas, is a rare representation of Elizabethan Warwickshire.
Besides its significance as an English tapestry, it is of major importance in cartographic history, providing a view of the county when modern map-making was in its infancy. It’s not a conventional map, but a pictorial record of late Tudor Warwickshire – a unique record of how the county looked 400 years ago, and how it has changed over time.
It provides a bird’s-eye view of Shakespeare’s county, the countryside that inspired the language and landscape for many of his plays. In April 2011, the tapestry travelled to Belgium to be wet-cleaned at De Wit of Mechelen, before beginning a programme of extensive conservation at a studio in Bristol. From July to November 2012 it was displayed in the exhibition ‘Shakespeare : Staging the World’ at the British Museum, before returning to the Warwickshire Museum Service in December 2012.