Tapestry longevity

Tapestry longevity

Hampton Court's tapestries: how long will they survive?

Our research question:
How well preserved are our British tapestries?

How well preserved are our British tapestries?


We studied a set of tapestries woven at Mortlake to find out more about British tapestry craftsmanship. This work will inform our future guardianship of these important textiles, the first of their kind to be made in Great Britain.

The project is part of a broader research theme for Historic Royal Palaces’ conservation science team. Hampton Court Palace is home to an important collection of tapestries, many of which are hundreds of years old, and have been on display to visitors for decades.

We want to know how well have the tapestries survived and how their display has affected their condition and future preservation. We also want to know if the original manufacture techniques or materials influenced the current state of preservation.


To answer these questions, we chose three Mortlake tapestries to study in detail, from which we took tiny fibre samples. We analysed them using state-of-the-art techniques.

Our external partners in this research are the Royal Collection; University of Manchester; National Museums of Scotland; KIK-IRPA, Belgium; and Birkbeck College, University of London.

Getting results

We took samples from the selected tapestries during September and October 2006. The results of the analysis will be available in April 2007.

We will use the conclusions of this study to help our conservators in planning future conservation treatment. We will also publish our results so that others can benefit from our research.

More conservation science research

More background

This project is building on the success of a previous collaborative project called ‘Monitoring of Damage to Historic Tapestries’ (MODHT), funded by the European Commission.

Together with our project partners, we made significant and fascinating advances in our understanding of Renaissance Flemish tapestry manufacture and deterioration.

Three collections of mostly Renaissance Flemish tapestries were used as case studies including those belonging to the UK’s Royal Collection and located at Hampton Court Palace; the Spanish Royal Collection’s tapestries at the Palacio Real, Madrid; and tapestries from several sites in Belgium.

Learn about conservation

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