The New World Tapestry

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cene Two
         1583 PANEL

The Queen’s message of support was obviously a very welcome one for Gilbert because by it she had changed her mind again as to his departure. Firstly in 1571 she had granted him what was called a Patent for the Discovery of New Lands. Then earlier this year, his plans having come to fruition and ships and supplies being made available, assembled and stationed in Plymouth she had got cold feet and hadn’t wanted him to risk his own life in the forthcoming venture.


The plea came too late, for on 7 February from his house in Redcross Street in London Gilbert had written to Walsingham stating his reasons why “I cannot comply with her Majesty’s solicitude for me to stay at home from the personal execution of my intended discovery. I am sanguine of success and willing to be opposed by all the best navigators and cosmographers of the realm. Only the extreme weather during the winter alone has delayed me.”


Gilbert’s fleet, now victualled and ready in Plymouth comprises of five ships. The Delight of 120 tons, Barke Raleigh 200, Squirrel 10, Swallow and the Golden Hinde  both 40. A ‘ton’ in this context does not signify weight. It means a big ton barrel used as a unit capacity measure. Thus the Squirrel for example is estimated at being able to accommodate 10 ton barrels.


On 12 June, at Gilbert’s signal from his flagship, the fleet weighs anchor. The great adventure has begun.


The first stitch on this panel was made at Compton by Mrs Joan Gilbert on 20 June 1983 – 300 years to the month after Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s expedition left Plymouth. Mrs Gilbert was the widow of Commander Walter Raleigh Gilbert RN and she still lived in the castle. The Commander should rank high in the roll call of England’s heritage protection heroes, for in 1930 he brought back at auction what was the half ruined Gilbert property, then over the next 20 years spent much of his own money on restoring it. So Mrs Gilbert was delighted to do the honours on 20th and made her stitch on the shield of the family coat-of-arms when Tom Mor, Tom Maddock, and Freda Simpson had taken the panel over for the ceremony. Today all their signatures can still be seen in the Castle’s Visitors’ Book. The current head of the Gilbert family still lives in part of the property which is now in the care of the National Trust. Times of opening are to be found on their website.

tapestry photo 1583 scene two panel

SOAPWORT  Saponaria officinalis.  ‘Some have commended it to be very good to be applied to greene wounds, to hinder inflammation, and speedily to heale them’. Gerard.

PURPLE IRIS  Iris foetidissima.  ‘Others do take the infusion thereof in ale and such like, where with they purge themselves and that unto very good purpose’. Gerard.

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