The Mount Felix Tapestry at Canterbury Museum
Monday 01 October 2018
History in stitches at Canterbury Museum
Panel 1 of the 44-panel Mount Felix Tapestry.
An embroidered tapestry commemorating the Kiwi connection an English community forged during World War One will be displayed at Canterbury Museum from 6 October to 3 November.
Between July 1915 and March 1920, 27,000 New Zealand soldiers were treated at the No 2 New Zealand General Hospital at the Mount Felix estate in the English town of Walton-on-Thames.
A century later, Walton-on-Thames residents worked together to create the tapestry as a tribute to the ANZAC soldiers, nurses, doctors and the people of Walton 100 years ago.
The community tapestry project, organised by the Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre in Walton, was launched in April 2015 and completed in April 2017. Designed by Andrew Crummy, the tapestry tells stories of bravery, love and loss from the hospital.
Over the 2 years a small army of stitchers from around the area, and some in New Zealand, created the 44 panels of the tapestry.
One of the panels illustrates the incredible bravery displayed by Kaikōura-born nurse Edith "Poppy" Popplewell when the HMT Marquette was sunk by a German torpedo on 23 October 1915.
Christchurch nurse, Kate Paterson, worked on this panel along with descendants of Hugh Acland, who survived the sinking and nurse Lorna Rattray who did not. Hugh Acland also features in a panel as he was president of the hospital’s medical board from 1917.
Paterson was asked to take part in the project by the committee of the historic Christchurch Nurses Memorial Chapel because of her connection to both the chapel and the Canterbury Embroiderers' Guild. The chapel was built in 1928 to commemorate the New Zealand nurses who lost their lives in World War One – including in the Marquette sinking – and the subsequent influenza epidemic.
Lance Corporal Alexander Grant from Invercargill first spotted his future wife, Walton-on-Thames resident Ruth Rosewell, over an “ivy clad wall” while recovering from a war wound at the hospital. Their romance is the subject of another of the tapestry’s panels.
Canterbury Museum Director Anthony Wright says the Mount Felix Tapestry is a unique way of commemorating the special connections between Walton-on-Thames and New Zealand.
“It really is remarkable that a century after the War, the Walton community still feel such a strong connection to New Zealand. The New Zealanders must have made quite an impression when they were there!
“We’re very pleased to have this beautiful tapestry here at the Museum, particularly because it so brilliantly complements our own exhibition, Canterbury and World War One:Lives Lost, Lives Changed.”
The Mount Felix Tapestry is currently touring New Zealand and will be displayed in Canterbury Museum’s Visitor Lounge from 6 October to 3 November.