Gold and Silver Wire Drawers Exhibition

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Needlemakers Visit to Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers (GSWD)Exhibition

A Needlemaker’s group visited the Guildhall exhibition to mark the 400th anniversary since the GSWD were granted their first royal charter under King James 1st.

GSWD still supports the ancient wire trade and provides awards for outstanding workmanship in modern usage of gold and silver wire and thread.

The exhibition commences with a display of the livery’s treasure including silverware and a beautifully embroidered sampler of their coat of arms made by 5 court assistants in 1923. The sampler demonstrates the range of techniques of drawn wire used in embroidery.

One of the earliest examples on display is the Bacton Altar cloth made from the only surviving dress of Elizabeth 1st. The dress was given to Blanche Parry, Chief Gentlewoman to the Queen who worked for her for 56 years before retiring to village of Bacton. The dress was later recycled into and Altar cloth.

With the coronation of Charles 3rd so recently in mind it was wonderful to see some of the detailed and highly skilled work used in ceremonial dress for State occasions. On display were Yeoman of the Guard State dress, Queen Mary’s coronation dress, coats belonging to the State Trumpeters, robes belonging to the British orders of chivalry and Charles Dickens Court Suit.

In the Ecclesiastical section we were pleased to see two of the copes restored with donations from our own charity fund. Needlemakers may remember that the Prussian Cope and the Queens Silver Jubilee cope were featured in the recent exhibition at St Paul’s Cathedral and are now on display alongside other vestments and chalice veils.

Epaulettes, gold braid and tassels feature heavily in the military section. It was easy to see how officers required the assistance of a batman to dress them when donning parade and mess dress.

Costumes used in the performing arts brought us up to date. Exhibits included: the tutu worn by Darcey Bussel in a performance of Sylvia, designs based on Norman Hartnell gowns for the Netflix series The Crown and stage costumes worn by David Tennant and Helen Mirren featuring gold thread to create strong visual effects.

The final section showcased gold and silver wire used in artwork. The astounding creativity and dexterity of embroidery from the Royal School of Needlework and metal work and jewellery made by GSWD and members of the Goldsmiths Company was truly inspirational.

We thank Karen Watts, who curated the exhibition, for arranging our most enjoyable visit and urge any liverymen who hasn’t been to visit the exhibition before it closes on November 12th.

Pippa Rousselet, Court Assistant