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Bradford Table Carpet

Detail of the Bradford Table Carpet, early 17th century. Detail of the Bradford Table Carpet, early 17th century. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK. T.134-1928.

The Bradford Table Carpet is a special canvas embroidery from the early seventeenth century (c. 1600-1615). Although it is called a carpet, it is a table covering. A 'table carpet’, such as this example, was removed or covered with a linen cloth when the table was in use. The Bradford example was originally owned by the Earls of Bradford at Castle Bromwich Hall (West Midlands, England).

The ‘carpet’ is now housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum (acc. no. T.134-1928). It measures 4.9 x 1.8 m, but the tension of the embroidery stitches has pulled the canvas from a rectangular into a parallelogram. It has 43 cm wide borders, which used to hang down the edges of a table. It is worked in silk thread on a linen ground. The main stitch used is tent stitchwith about 62 stitches per square cm. About 23 different colours are used.

The main design is of a grape vine trellis, while the border shows a rural scene. This border is sometimes said to represent human progression, from a wild state to civilisation. However, it is feasible that it was simply celebrating country pursuits. The border includes hunting, lords and ladies, milkmaids, millers, a shepherd, a travelling pedlar with his packhorse, as well as a manor house, watermills and windmills. Such rural scenes were popular in furnishing decoration during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A professional embroiderer probably made the ‘carpet'. The absence of heraldry suggests it was made for the open market, rather than on commission.


  • LEVEY, Santina. M. and David KING (1993). The Victoria and Albert Museum's Textile Collection. Vol. 3: Embroidery in Britain from 1200 to 1750, London: Victoria and Albert Museum.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 19 June 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 15 March 2017 14:39