Some of the richest fabrics ever made, including the remarkable Bacton Altar Cloth will go on display in the City of London later this year. The Bacton Altar Cloth, despite its name, is actually the only known piece of a dress worn by Queen Elizabeth I.

Woven with silver thread inlays, it would have ensured the Queen glowed in the firelight and candles when she attended state events. So precious was the silver threaded and embroidered fabric that when the Queen stopped wearing the dress, it was cut into pieces and one of those pieces ended up as a church altercloth until its discovery in 2015. It was displayed at Hampton Court Palace for a few months in late 2019, but hasn’t been seen again.

Now it will be one of the highlights of an exhibition to mark the 400th anniversary of the Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers the people who make the gold and silver thread used in richly decorated uniforms or ceremonial clothing.

(c) Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers

Featuring over 200 items dating from the Middle Ages to the present day, many of them on display for the first time, the exhibition will present historical items and royal, military, ecclesiastical, and theatrical costumes, alongside examples of modern jewellery, silversmithing, and embroidery.

Along with other highlights, the exhibition will include Charles Dickens’ court suit, an RSC robe worn by David Tennant as Richard II, and the Coronation glove of Queen Elizabeth II. There will also be Queen Mary’s Coronation Dress of gold and silver silk thread, the coat of a State Trumpeter from the Household Cavalry along with gold braided dress uniforms for the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Reminding us that embroidery is still a modern trade, there will also be contemporary jewellery, embroidery and fashion accessories made by the company’s Freemen and Liverymen using gold and silver wire.

(c) Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers

Master Gold and Silver Wyre Drawer, Catherine Carr, said: “This superb exhibition will showcase the beautiful application of gold and silver wire over the centuries and will appeal to all ages, offering an opportunity to view examples of gold and silver wiredrawing of a calibre unmatched anywhere.

“Visitors to the gallery will be able to put the exhibits in their proper social, cultural, and historic contexts, discover the stories connected to them, and marvel at the creativity, attention to detail, patience, and technology that went into their design.”

The exhibition, Treasures of Gold and Silver Wire will be at the Guildhall Art Gallery from Saturday 30th September to 12th November 2023

Tickets can be booked in advance from here, or bought on the day.

  • Adult: £10
  • Children (under 12): Free
  • Concessions: £7
  • National Art Pass Adult: £5
  • National Art Pass Concession: £3.50

Concession:

  • Seniors (60 and over)
  • Students (12 and over)
  • Disabled
  • Armed Forces (current & veterans)
  • NHS employees
  • Care-home workers
  • Blue Light Card holders
  • Unemployed

Free:

  • Children under 12
  • Friends of the Guildhall Art Gallery
  • Essential companion (with a disabled person)
  • City Residents
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