Friday 24 June 2011

The Maldon Embroidery

The other week I decided it was high time (and low tide) enough to make a dash over to Maldon on the Blackwater Estuary in Essex to see the Maldon Embroidery. I was a guest on the private island of Osea, linked to the mainland by a causeway which is traversible only twice a day at low tide. So I crossed under the anxious gaze of egrets, shell ducks, oyster catchers and wildly shrieking herring gulls.
This embroidery designed by Humphrey Spender - as epic in its proportions as the Bayeaux tapestry - was worked on for 3 years between 1987 and 1990 by 86 embroiderers, female and male, to celebrate the millenium anniversary of the famous Battle of Maldon when a large army of Vikings led by Olaf Trygvassen, fresh from the sacking of nearby Ipswich, sailed up the Blackwater Estuary and made ready for an attack on Maldon.
Facing them up were the Saxon Earls, lead by Byrhtnoth with his trusty sword, Brighthelm. I think Byrhtnoth was a regular cricket player, since he allowed the Vikings passage to the mainland, so they could enjoy a level palying field, as it were. This very British gesture led to the Saxon downfall. The Battle of Maldon is one of the earliest and finest examples of English literature. And if you click on the link below you can hear some of it recited in the original language which we spoke hereabouts a thousand years ago.

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