REMS Visit the Royal School of Needle Work and Hampton Court

31 July 2012

This proved to be a fine June day, important to those who had walked to Hampton Court from the more distant car parks or the train station.

REMS Visit the Royal School of Needle Work and Hampton Court

The Royal School of Needlework was founded to revive the beautiful art of embroidery which had fallen into disuse and to provide employment for educated women who, without a suitable livelihood, would otherwise find themselves compelled to live in poverty.  It has always had Royal patronage.  It commissions designs and takes on commercial work.  It runs a two year degree course, as well as classes ranging from fun day and weekend courses, to certificate and diploma courses.  

They moved to Hampton Court in 1987 from Kensington Palace.

We were greeted by Dr Susan Kay-Williams, the Chief Executive, who gave an introduction to the needlework school and an opportunity to ask questions.  

In 1872 Lady Victoria Welby founded the School of Art Needlework in London with the first students being registered on 5 November 1872.  Within a month or two, Princess Helena, Queen Victoria’s third daughter became the President. By 1875 the school had the Queen’s Patronage and became the Royal School of Art Needlework, exhibiting internationally for the first time in 1876 in the USA.  Royal patronage continues to this day, and some of the work on the Duchess of Cambridge's Wedding Dress was carried out by the Royal School of Needlework

Following the talk we were shown some of the items in the Royal School of Needlework’s collection with some explanation about some of the items.  Japanese embroidery was also on display as well as books of newspaper cuttings and the school’s order books.

Lunch was in the Kings Arms just outside the grounds and was followed by a visit to Hampton Court Palace.

Cardinal Wolsey started building his palace about 1612 but Henry VIII confiscated it in 1620. He carried on building including his Great Hall with its magnificent hammer-beam roof. Most centuries have seen more building, two notable architects being Wren (William and Mary) and William Kent (George II). Kent rebuilt some of the famous west front and parts of the inside. Wren built the Fountain Court and the south and east wings.

One advantage of an afternoon visit was that most of the school groups had left, so the buildings were reasonably quite, much less crowded than later in the season allowing a leisurely stroll around the various themed sections, for example The Tudor Kitchens, built to feed the Court of Henry VIII, these kitchens were designed to feed at least 600 people twice a day, and ‘The Young Henry the Eighth and easy access to the various cafes and shops.

Within the palace were costumed staff portraying the life in court.

One part of the exhibition, The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned, had portraits from various eras, for example Charles II’s mistresses, plus a notice about adult content!

The meeting was organised by George Freeman. 

Further details of REMS events are available from the REMS secretary: John Belling, email

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