St Peter Port in Guernsey is littered with little museums and galleries, but sadly, most of them close at the end of September. So arriving at the beginning of October, was perhaps a bad plan!
Never-the-less, the two main museums, Cornet Castle and the Guernsey Museum at Candie are open almost all year round, as is the small, but beautifully formed, Guernsey Tapestry museum.
I’ll start with the tapestry museum – it was the first one I visited and very pleased I did. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I visited the Bayeux Tapestry recently and wondered how it would compare. The tapestry was started as a community event to mark the millennium, involving the ten parishes of the Bailiwick of Guernsey working on their own tapestry with supervision from a team of tapestry doyens. Each of the tapestries depict a piece of Guernsey history over the last 1000 years, from the mythological and ghostly tradition of the island and the conflict of war to art, craft, architecture, tomatoes and cows.
The panels were designed by artist Valerie Chandler and transferred onto textile by Jenneth Fitzgerald, who co-ordinated the mammoth project and received an OBE from Prince Charles in recognition of her achievement (an award that she promptly shared with everyone involved in the project).
Ok, it might sound a bit amateurish – random people of varying abilities contributing to a tapestry, but the results are anything but. The vibrant colours, textures, attention to detail, humour and heart – you’ll find it all. It’s obvious that the people involved in the project, from the co-ordinating team to the children who added a stitch or two, have taken pride in their work.
Like the Bayeux Tapestry, the Guernsey Tapestry is housed in a purpose-built gallery with dimmed lighting. Like the Bayeux Tapestry, an audio guide talks you through the tapestries drawing your attention to a quirky detail or a pertinent point in Guernsey’s history. The audio guide doesn’t point out to you the different textures, used to great effect on the second panel by to depict the waves rolling against the western shore of the island, or the flames in the sixth panel or the fishermen’s nets in panel number eight. Luckily Caroline is on hand to help with any questions I have about the work. She can also point to the cow on the St Peter Port panel where her tapestry stitch resides.
At the very least, the Guernsey Tapestry is a great starting point for introducing you to Guernsey’s unique history, but I think if you look closer and immerse yourself in the fabric of time, you’ll get a great deal more out of this lovely place. And if you need more colour, just ask at the desk in the gift shop – I was lucky that it was a quiet day and got myself an impromptu second tour with my own private guide, with insights into the tapestry and some of the personal stories behind it.
Definitely worth a tour. It cost £4.95 for adults, £4.50 for over 65s and students. Children under 16 go free.
Easter to end of October, Monday – Saturday 10am – 4.30pm.
(November to Easter open Thursdays only 10am – 4pm)