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May 28, 2013

Odiham celebrates Magna Carta 800th Anniversary in stitches


John Champion, Odiham Society.

The focal point of our plans to commemorate Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary is the Odiham Embroidery. The design for this magnificent embroidered panel depicting key events in Odiham’s rich history was officially unveiled in March, and stitching is now well under way by around 70 volunteers from the local community. It is likely to take around 18 months to complete.

The complex embroidery, designed by Odiham-based artist Mary Turner, depicts 800 years of local history from the time of Magna Carta. It features King John and the barons setting off for Windsor and Runnymede; visits by both Queen Elizabeth I and II; the meeting in Odiham that led to the founding of the veterinary profession in Britain; French prisoners of war held on parole at Odiham and North Warnborough during the Napoleonic war; and the great heavyweight boxing match between Mendoza and Humphreys in 1788 – among many other scenes.

Eleanor de Montfort, King John’s daughter, is also shown, along with her husband Simon de Montfort, who returned to join her Odiham Castle following the first Parliament with elected representatives in 1265.

The panel reflects the history of England as it was played out in this historic parish. This is very much a community project which will bring the both heritage of the Parish of Odiham and the sealing of the Magna Carta alive for residents and visitors, young and old alike.

The panel has been divided into individual parts that are being worked on separately by volunteer stitchers from Odiham and surrounding villages. Once completed, all the parts will be stitched on to the main canvas to complete the design.

Considerable research and planning has gone into the project to ensure authenticity of design, materials and stitching. It is being stitched in traditional materials and techniques that have been recommended by the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court and the National Needlework Archive in Newbury.

The embroidery will be finished and framed in time to be unveiled at the Odiham Magna Carta Festival on 23 May 2015.

On 6th June 2015 a walking event will recreate King John’s journey from Odiham to Runneymede, using the Basingstoke Canal towpath and ending in a picnic besides the Thames (with shorter versions for those unable to manage the full 40 miles!). Sequential bell ringing on 14 June 2015 will begin at Odiham with successive towers along the way joining in until bells are ringing all the way to Wraysbury, Windsor and Runnymede.

There is much local support for our planned commemorations in Odiham, and the 800th Committee is a very useful resource which we will be making use of between now and 2015. We know that there are many other local communities like ours with historic ties to the events surrounding the sealing of the Magna Carta and we hope that Odiham residents and local people will visit events at other locations, beginning with St Albans in 2013, and visitors will join our celebrations at Odiham.
We would hope that our events will be part of a network of celebrations across our region and indeed the whole of the UK, tying into the major national and international events which are in the pipeline. It is a going to be a hugely exciting time, and the people of Odiham are rightly proud of the role their village played in events which helped shape the world for the past 800 years.



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