The National Needlework Archive

I recently went with a group of friends to The National Needlework Archive, based at The Old Chapel, Main Street, New Greenham Park, Newbury, Berkshire, RG19 6HW. It is not a large venue, but is most interesting – they have two small exhibition rooms where we viewed “A Passion for Applique” which is the current display.

However, more interesting was the work currently taking place in a large room at the back of the Museum. Their Conservation area – currently “The Country Wife” a very large mural incorporating many techniques in embroidery, applique and stump work. It is 5 metres wide and 5.4 metres deep. It shows activities typical of people in rural communities in the mid-20th century. This piece of work was designed by Constance Howard for the 1951 – Festival of Britain and was in The Country Pavilion on The South Bank, London.

We were given an in depth history of when and how it was made, plus learnt much about conservation methods. They have already been working on this project for a few years, apart from the conservationist all those helping are volunteers. To learn more visit

There is a small café where tea and cake is served and a small shop. They are often given fabrics which might be useful for projects, if these are not able to be used by the group, then they are sold to add to their fund raising to help with this large task they are undertaking.

This is not really suitable for a large coach party to visit, but for small groups of 15-ish fine. If you are passing that way – do remember to look in for an hour or two…. The Centre has a programme of exhibitions and events, also workshops and classes – check their website :
for opening times. I am aware that our group had made a booking for the visit.

Well worth a visit if you are interested in history, art and conservation!

Denise Pearcey

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