New World Tapestry

Part of the New World Tapestry. Part of the New World Tapestry.

The New World tapestry is a commemorative embroidery illustrating England’s colonisation attempts in North America, Bermuda, Guyana and Newfoundland between 1583 and the year 1642, when the English Civil War broke out. The embroidery was designed by Tom Mor, who also designed the Plymouth tapestry and the Bristol Berkeley Plantation tapestry.

The aim of all these tapestries is to present historical events in an inoffensive manner, as part of what Tom Mor calls "a history without tears". The New World tapestry is one of the largest hand-stitched embroideries in the world. It is 81.3 m long and 1.2 m wide, and consists of 24 panels. Each panel narrates a particular event that took place between 1583 and 1642. It shows 264 people, 264 coats of arms and 264 plants for food and medicines. The figures are drawn in a cartoon style. The work was carried out on canvas using tent stitch (gobelin stitch).

The first stitch was worked on 26 September 1980 by Kingman Brewster, the American Ambassador to Britain. The embroidery was finished when the last stitch was added by HRH Prince Charles on 3 March, 2000. There were also contributions by HM the Queen, HM the Queen Mother, HRH Prince Philip, HRH the Princess Royal and HRH the Duchess of Gloucester. There are about 39 million stitches in the complete work.

Throughout the project for this tapestry the chief 'tapissiers' were Joan Roncanelli and Renée Harvey, assisted by 256 embroiderers. The embroidery was originally on display at Coldharbour Mill in Devon. In 2003 it was announced that the embroidery was being given to the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, Bristol, England and then to the Bristol Museum, Galleries and Archives. The future of the embroidery is now under discussion (2014).

See also the TRC Needles entries on the Bayeux tapestry; Overlord embroidery; Plymouth Congregational Church tapestry and the Quaker tapestry.


For an interview with Tom Mor, designer of the New World tapestry, click here (retrieved 4th June 2017).

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 20 June 2016).


Last modified on Sunday, 04 June 2017 16:55