'Mediocre' Belgian tapestries restored

Tapestry Image copyright Doddington Hall
Image caption One of the tapestries depicts a piper sat playing his instrument

Two rare tapestries depicting rural life in the 17th Century have been restored by a team of specialists at Lincoln Castle.

The tapestries, from Doddington Hall, near Lincoln, date back to 1620, and show a cobbler and bagpiper.

They were taken down in 2013 and sent for specialist cleaning before being restitched at the castle.

The works, described as "mediocre", are said to be rare because most similar pieces have been lost over time.

Claire Birch, Doddington Hall's owner, said it had been a major task to clean and restore them, with "hours and hours of painstaking stitching".

She said the Flemish tapestries were nailed to the walls of the hall's Holly and Yellow rooms in the 1760s by the then owner Sir John Delaval, but had deteriorated over the years.

More than 1,600 nails, used to hold the tapestries in place, were removed by conservation students from local universities before the artwork was sent to Belgium for specialist cleaning.

They were then re-stitched by a team at Lincoln Castle.

Image copyright Doddington Hall
Image caption A team at Lincoln Castle spent 14 months restoring the tapestries

Mrs Birch said: "Unfortunately, over the years, with sunlight and coal dust all the fibres deteriorated."

"The actual particles of coal dust were eating into the fibres - the dirt was unbelievable - there were just bags of it that came out."

A bat skeleton was also found behind one of the tapestries.

She added: "They are considered special because they are rare examples of mediocre quality tapestries from the period.

"It sounds crazy, but the really fine tapestries were looked after much better and there are good examples of them all around."

"These are much rarer because people didn't look after them."

Image caption The tapestries have been loosely hung to allow them to stretch before they are put in their permanent positions

Visitors will be able to see the artwork in place when the hall reopens on Easter Sunday.

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