DRESS & TEXTILES

Areas of interest include:

  • dress, hats, shoes, belts, jewellery;
  • felt, wool, silk, leather, linen, flax;
  • embroidery, needlepoint, tapestry;
  • preservation and conservation;
  • all the processes of felting and fulling, spinning, carding, teasing, dyeing, weaving, needlework, braiding etc;
  • depictions of medieval dress found on effigies in churches

Interested in Medieval Dress & Textiles?
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The Blanche Mortimer Dress Project 2013
In 2013 a group of MHS members re-created the dress that Blanche Mortimer is depicted wearing on her tomb effigy in St Bartholomew’s Church, Much Marcle, Herefordshire. The effigy is universally recognised as one of the finest pieces of 14th century funeral sculpture in the country. Blanche Mortimer was the youngest daughter of Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. Early in 1330, Blanche married Sir Peter Grandison of Ashperton (near Much Marcle) Later that year her father was executed as a traitor and his power, lands and titles were lost.

As far as we know, Blanche was born around 1315, married to Sir Peter when she was about 15 years old in 1330, and died aged about 32 in 1347. The style of her dress is therefore around mid-14th century, but effigies were generally sculpted to represent the dead as if they were 30 years old - preparing to meet with Christ in heaven.

Blanche’s costume comprises a kirtle/gown, mantle/cape, veil, headband and jewellery with rings and rosary beads of amber and lapis lazuli. The materials used are wool and linen  in the Mortimer colours of dark powder blue and gold, and the kirtle, mantle and braids were made, hand-stitched by Izabela Pitcher of Prior Attire (seen in the picture wearing the Blanche dress). For more information about the project click here

Blanche's Dress On Tour
The re-created dress was officially launched at an excellent study day in Much Marcle in March 2013. It was then displayed at a wide range a venues. Herefordshire locations included Aylton, Hampton Court Castle Hope-under-Dinmore, Ledbury, Leominster, Ross-on-Wye, Wigmore. Other venues included Shrewsbury in Shropshire, Somerton in Somerset and the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival in Gloucestershire. It was also exhibited in the King Edward Gallery of Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire where Blanche’s eldest sister Margaret lived as wife of Thomas the 3rd Baron Berkeley.

Blanche's Remains Discovered?
In January 2014, during conservation work at Much Marcle church, the tomb below Blanche Mortimer’s effigy was opened and a lead ‘coffin’  discovered.  There were holes in the lead roll, and no solid remains appeared to be within.  There is no way of knowing if these are the dusty remains of Blanche Mortimer, and the coffin was returned to the renovated tomb,  which was re-dedicated in June 2014.

Blanche at Hereford Cathedral for the Anniversary of Magna Carta
For six months Blanche was on display in Hereford Cathedral close to the effigy of her husband Sir Peter Grandison, whose tomb is on the left-hand side of the Lady Chapel. This display was part of the 800th  anniversary events concerning the 1215 Magna Carta, including exhibitions and lectures in the Mappa Mundi & Chained Library building as well as in the Cathedral.

MHS Visit to Dublin - October 2014
In October 2014 a party of 30 MHS members went to Dublin where we visited the National Museum of Archeology and viewed remains of medieval clothes dug from the Irish peat bogs. We also visited the library of Trinity College where a copy of the Wigmore Chronicle was set out in the Library especially for the MHS party. A highlight of the trip was a visit to the magnificent Mortimer Castle at Trim, some 20 miles north of Dublin.

Booklet on Leather & Vellum
Following the visit to Trinity College Dublin to see the Wigmore Chronicle,  a new section on Vellum  was added to the booklet previously produced by the group on Leather. To access the booklet  click here 

2015 Visit to St Mary's Priory, Abergavenny
Known as the Westminster Abbey of Wales, St Mary's houses many amazing medieval effigies and tombs. One of these is of Lawrence Hastings who in 1329 had married another of Blanche's sisters, Agnes.

2016 Gour Family Costumes at Pembridge
Members of Pembridge Heritage Group have made copies of the costumes of two members of the Gour family,  who were Mortimer stewards.  The effigies of two Gour generations are found in Pembridge church.  The group are planning to make two more costumes copying those depicted on the effigies of their son and daughter-in-law.

MEDATS - Medieval Dress & Textiles Society
In June 2016, MHS member Margot Miller gave a short lecture to MEDAT's summer meeting in London. She spoke about three Mortimer inventories. The first concerned Dolforwyn Castle in Powys and dated from the 12th century. The second was a 13th century inventory from Wigmore Castle & Abbey, while the third was a privy purse account of the journeys and sojourns in 1413-14 of Edmund, 5th Earl of March.