Panels 1 to 10

Here are all 44 tapestry panels, each with the background story and stitchers comments. All the panels are finished and now being stretched and backed. They will then be sewn together into the tapestry.

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1. No.2 New Zealand General Hospital - Walton on Thames (1915-1920)
1. No.2 New Zealand General Hospital – Walton on Thames (1915-1920)
1. No. 2 New Zealand General Hospital, Walton on Thames (1915-1920)

The title panel shows The Clock Tower, Mount Felix, now given over to offices, which is all that remains of the hospital today. Nurses and soldiers are remembered behind it. The border is formed by forget-me-nots from St Mary’s graveyard where Walton’s New Zealand memorial stands, and the bright yellow flowers of the Kowhai tree memorial in Walton. This tree was given by the New Zealand High Commission in 1970 and was rededicated in 1973 when the plaque shown in the panel was put in place. Originally the tree stood outside the old Walton and Weybridge Town Hall, completed in 1966 and demolished in 1993, before the land was sold to Homebase.

The clock tower, originally a bakehouse and brewery, then a coach house, is all that remains of Sir Charles Barry’s architecture now. Situated to the east of where the main building once stood, it was gives us some idea of how impressive the orginal must have been.

Stitchers: Eileen Phelps (The Riverhouse Stitchers)

This was the first panel to be started with the first stitch going in in May 2015. The Riverhouse Stitchers, of which I am a part, started it as a group since we all meet on Wednesdays. It just so happened that I had more time and was happy to take it home, got the bit between my teeth and before I knew it, I had completed it.

Being the first panel, we were asked to work on the ‘template’ to be used across the project. I wanted to use simple stitches that could be managed by all abilities, so that it wasn’t too daunting and even the primary schools could achieve it.

We also had to identify colours to use for future panels to copy. The Kowhai tree was in full bloom when we started and that helped us get its vivid yellow just right.

Sponsor: Simon Holdings

2. Mount Felix before the war
2. Mount Felix before the war
2. Mount Felix Before the War

The 2nd panel travels back in time to before war broke out. It depicts the view of the estate from the Shepperton side of the River. This straight stretch of river was well known for regattas and boating trips.

From the 18th Century Mount Felix had been owned by the Earl of Tankerville who, in 1837 commissioned Sir Charles Barry to reconstruct a grand Mansion in the Palladian tradition. Tankerville also created a Surrey Cricket team and one of the players, employed as a Gardnener at Mount Felix, ‘Lumpey Stevens’ was a bowler whose skill and technique meant that the accuracy of his bowling didn’t necessarily knock the bails of the two stump wickets, and the third stump had to be introduced.

By WWI, it has passed out of the hands of the Tankervilles, through the hands of Herbert Ingram (founder of the Illustrated London News) and into the ownership of John Cook ( son of Thomas Cook). When he and his wife died, the eastate stood empty. During this time, it gradually fell into disrepeair. However the grounds were used by Walton based Film Pioneer, Cecil Hepworth who created the first film version of Alice In Wonderland at Mount Felix in 1903.

Stichers: Yasmeen Kreebani-Branton, Lindsay Bull and Carol Anne Reid.

Carol Anne Reid: I fell in love with this panel as it evoked a golden age that was shortly to come to the most savage end.  Because there was very little historic information about Mount Felix of this time it enabled me to be completely free in the stitches and colours of the greenery.

Lindsay Bull: I loved the peaceful image and I really wanted to do something blue and tranquil, so this panel ticked all the boxes. I especially enjoyed doing plaited fly stitch (an expert won’t recognise my attempt at it!) for the swan’s feathers. I have really loved doing the stitching in these panels.

Sponsors: Jasmine Deane, Ruth Evans, Shirley Crowther

3. Pre-war New Zealand
3. Pre-war New Zealand
3. New Zealand Pre-War

During our research into the history of soldiers and nurses at Mount Felix we came across various key stories. This panel shows depicts some of the New Zealanders at home just before the outbreak of WWI. We follow their stories in later panels:

Randall Borthwick Browne, along with two brothers, left a family business to play his part in the Gallipoli campaign. All three survived.

Alexander Grant was a travelling representative in his civilian life and a well-known rower and rugby player.

Pita Poi Poi was a Maori sheep farmer and, along with his many compatriots, was to experience dramatic changes in his life.

Edith Popplewell was already a nurse in New Zealand. She suffered many traumatic experiences before taking up her position at Mount Felix.

WWI changed their lives in many ways they could not have imagined – not only the horrors of war, but unexpectedly finding themselves in the comparative serenity of England. In the cases of Randal, Alexander and Pita, depicted, they met their future wives here in Walton, married and in due course, after recuperation, returned to NZ.

Stitcher: Mary Pink with help from Geoff Pink, Melanie Nelson and Glen Nelson (Family Search Centre)

Geoff and I had been involved in the research for the tapestry since the start of the project (see page xxx) and this panel features many of the people we had researched.

When I started to stitch this panel, I worked from the bottom up and actually cried when I got to the faces and they became alive and real people. The detailing was fun, adding Pita Poi Poi’s Maori skin tone in seed stitch and of course his woolly sheep.

Each of the features that Andrew has so lovingly incorporated tells the story beautifully and all of these stories will remain with the stitchers for a long time.

4. Declaration of war in Walton
4. Declaration of war in Walton
4. Declaration of War in Walton

This panel shows a Walton scene at the time of the Declaration of War. Andrew Crummy has included buildings from photographs of Church Street, the old Library and the Wharf. You can see part of Rosewell’s boathouse and the building that is now the Anglers Pub near Riverhouse. There used to be a wooden jetty there too. The scene shows a man and a woman reading newspaper reports and wondering if they will join up. The Rosewells were a well known family in Walton and Shepperton and Ruth Rosewell features later in our story when she meets and marries the recuperating Alexander Grant over an ivy clad wall in the grounds of the hospital.

Stitchers: Joan McGalliard, Anne Hoskins and Nia Jones

Joan: It had been on a whim that I had volunteered to take part in the Mount Felix project, so I was rather surprised and pleased when I received a call from Nicola inviting me to join a group of stitchers. Off I went to the Barn to meet my fellow stitchers and Mary, our ‘Mother Hen’, who guided us through the whole process. We had great fund choosing cooours and deciding on stitches. Then we set to work. It was so exciting to try out new stitches and see the picture come to life with every stitch.

Despite having been a local resident for more than forty years, I knew nothing about the role  played by Mount Felix. It was interesting to look at the old photographs of the soldiers in their peaceful riverside sanctuary and fascinating to hear the stories of individual romances. I even discovered that a friend’s grandmother had met her Kiwi husband here while nursing the wounded here.

Anne: Having completed one of the two flags on the panel, the question arose “was it the right way up?” Even allowing for a bit of fluttering, the general opinion was negative. So it was down to undoing and redrawing as far as possible, guided by a recent souvenir bought from Help the Heroes.

Nia: A busy picture. Miles and miles of ouline. Am trying to keep on the straight and narrow! Don’t stop! Get on with it! England expects and so do Annie and Joan. Relax to Aled’s newest CD. .. That ‘B’ Doesn’t look too good, unpick! Try again! Yes, that’s definitely better… that soothing music really helps.

Seriously though participating in this project has been very worthwhile. Might this work endure for centuries to be gazed at, admired and reflected on just as we enjoy contemplating old tapestries today. The Mount Felix project tells a human story of love, anguish and compassion and I played a part in its depiction.

5. Your country needs you
5. Your country needs you
5. “Your Country Needs You.”

This panel is designed to reflect the campaigns to recruit men and women for the war effort in both Walton on Thames and New Zealand.

The fern in the middle of the design is the New Zealand emblem and there was much discussion as to which way it should face and whether it should be silver or green. In other words, whether it should follow the design of the official emblem or reflect the actual plant.

We were grateful to Jane Thomas and Sherayl McNabb (who is writing a book on NZ nurses uniforms) in helping us find the correct uniforms for the Voluntary Aid Division (VADs): a mid blue dress and white starched ‘Sister Dora’ Cap, apron and cuffs. The army uniforms varied tremendously with rank, regiment and year. The khaki colours were inconsistent throughout the war as different suppliers were used and therefore different materials and dyes. For this reason we made an early decision to use similar but not exactly the same khakis on every panel.

Stitchers: Elmbridge Borough Council – Anna Bright, Vicki Rookhard-Wheatley, Rebecca King and Jennifer Bailey (supported by Dorothy Hulatt)

Jennifer: I work in the ICT department of Elmbridge Borough Council. Although I haven’t done any stitching since I was a child, I enjoy hobbies such as knitting and fancied a new challenge. It was really exciting to see the panel coming together and to get to work with new people.

Rebecca: I have been inspired by the Mount Felix project and the chance to complete an embroidery project as part of a group. It was a bit daunting at first but once we had the panel framed up and had all stitched a bit it seemed easier.

We are very grateful to Dorothy Hulatt for helping bring the panel to completion.

6. Hepworth Studios
6. Hepworth Studios
6. Cecil Hepworth

Pioneer film maker, Cecil Hepworth’s famous studios were located in Hurst Grove near Mount Felix. By 1914 Walton had become one of the three major film studios in Britain. Unlike other studios, production continued at Walton-on Thames through the First World War, both by making propaganda films and by renting to visiting companies.

Hepworth was also an inventor who like experimenting with “trick” films.  It is believed that slow-motion photography started here.

His studios made Documentaries, Classics, Melodrama, Horror, Scenic films, Comedies (notably the “Tilly” series), Heritage films, Location films in Brighton and Ireland and Yorkshire.

In the early days he made much of the documentary, filming scenes of British troops departing for and returning from the wars and perhaps one of the earliest films of the Royal Family including the funeral of Queen Victoria.

(information from www.hepworthfilm.org)

Stitchers: This panel was worked by children aged 8/9 in Swan Class at Ashley Church of England Primary School, under guidance from Royal School of Needlework tutor Heather Lewis and parents Sarah Hedley and Neeta Bhagat. The children enjoyed learning new skills and all about the story behind the panel. Stitches in this panel include chain stitch, stem stitch, long and short, satin, laid work, French Knots, back stitch and seeding.

The children who contributed are: Megan, Lily Bannister, Molly Bannister, Anthony Buck-Triano, Lara Clayton, Lewis Cooling, Molly Cowden, Freya Dominy, Oliver Egan, Jazmine Goreeph, James Gough, Kathryn Hedley, Lucy Howard, Amelia Ince, Lennon Kite, Daniel Kyritsis, Andrew Lee, Isabelle Lemmon, James Maloney, Chloe Neale, William Nesbitt, Luke Oryem, Ashley Powell, Rory Prince, Kate Ross, Daniel Settle, Isabella Simpson, Rossano Udeze, Daniel Whitehouse, Leo Wilkinson

7. Leaving New Zealand
7. Leaving New Zealand

7. Leaving New Zealand

October 1914 – Leaving New Zealand:  ANZACs travel huge distances as ships bring soldiers to join the campaign. Randall Borthwick Browne joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Main Body, Otago Infantry Battalion as a Private and embarked for Gallipoli in October 1914
leaving from Port Chalmera to Alexandra. Pita Poi Poi departed for the Dardanelles in Feburary 1915 with the Maori Contingent (see further info panels) and Alexander Grant departed in April 1915 with the 2nd Battalian of the Otago Infantry.

On October 16, 1914 – 10 transport ships set off from Wellington. The journey lasted a total of forty-eight days, and took the men from Wellington to Egypt via Hobart, Albany, Colombo and Aden. Officers organised physical training programmes, inoculations, lectures and target practice sessions to keep the troops occupied, while keeping an eye out for gambling and smoking on deck at night.

Stitcher: Marion Millinger

I have been interested in embroidery of all types for over twenty five years, so when I heard that the organisers of the Mount Felix Tapestry were looking for volunteers to work on their panels, I wanted to join in.

It is always good to find out about the history of local landmarks past and present. I had not heard about Mount Felix up to this point but almost from day one of this venture I have heard many stories about this building and the soldiers and the medical staff that stayed and worked there.

A long way from home the soldiers must have felt lonely and maybe afraid and it is good to know that in our quiet part of Surrey, we did our best to help them recover from their injuries as best we could. Now we can tell the story of this amazing building in embroidery and put Walton on Thames on the map.

I have been lucky enough to be able to go to New  Zealand a few years ago and was delighted when the panel allotted to me showed the silver fern leaf, symbol of the country. Stitching the panel has brought back the happiness I felt being in the country of the Maoris.

I have really enjoyed taking part in this venture in my small way. The panels all look amazing and I am looking forward to seeing the whole project finished and on display for all to see, I am grateful for the opportunity.

8. The Maori Contingent
8. The Maori Contingent
8. Maori Contingent

Pita Poi Poi served with the Maori Contingent and was a very traditional in his outlook. This panel was inspired by a photograph of some of the soldiers performing the Haka, which we so closely associate with New Zealand Rugby Team of today: The performance was for the benefit of the Prime Minister William Massey and his Deputy Sir Joseph Ward. The Maori Contingent, which served at Gallipoli, was subsequently reformed as the Pioneer Battallion which suffered heavy losses on the Western Front. Pita Poi Poi was only active for 2 months in Gallipoli before he was taken ill with enteritis and pneumonia. His story and that of the local girl that he married is fascinating and more information is displayed elsewhere in this exhibition.

Stitcher: Shirley Goffe (with Margaret Seeley)

As soon as I saw the drawing of the Haka I wanted to stitch it and nothing was going to stop me.

I am the greatest fan of the Rugby Union game, and the New Zealand All Blacks in particular, so that was enough for me.

The fact that the fabric was tricky, the wool was tricky, two daylight bulbs blew and then I had an unexpected spell in hospital did not deter me. Even when my sister stitcher found it too much for her I was adamant I would not give it up even though we would have welcomed any one who wanted to join in.

There were great swathes of stitching that I had to use ingenuity to work out the best stitch to use – even making one up but the challenge was great and the picture was coming to life.

Its taken all the spare time I had and more, everything else was put on hold,the garden needs attention, the filing hasnt been done for 8 months.

I handed it over to Nicola last Tuesday glad that it was completed.

Now I miss it already

Oh well – better get on with the filing I suppose

Sponsors: John and Carol Robbins

10. The 'Lemon Squeezer'
9. The ‘Lemon Squeezer’
9. The ‘Lemon Squeezer’

A correspondent in the Chronicles of NZET in 1916 was quoted as remarking that “it was the advent of the slouch hat which made the people of Walton search upon a map to find where New Zealand was”.

Andrew Crummy found the story of the iconic kiwi slouch hat, or ‘lemon squeezer’ particularly fascinating.

The story goes that it was introduced by one of New Zealand’s most famous soldiers of the Gallipoli Campaign, William George Malone. Originally for his Taranaki Rifles Regiment, the hat was designed to mirror the outline of Mount Taranaki – seen in the design. At the start of the campaign hats had dipped in the middle and the rain had collected. Malone pulled the top up into the lemon squeezer shape, which allowed the rain to run off. The hat went on to be adopted first by Malone’s Wellington Regiment and later by the rest of the New Zealand Infantry Division on 1st January 1916.

True or not, it is an engaging story.

Stitchers: Rydens Enterprise School Students with Adrienne Crampton (Lead Stitcher), Lianne Bayley (Teacher), Daniel Lee, Jessica Weston, Addie Pattas and Emily Blunden (Students)

The RES group of students involved in the Mount Felix Tapestry Project met every Tuesday after school where they practiced stitches on sample pieces of fabric before starting to stitch the real thing. We are all particularly pleased with the way the barbed wire turned out- whipped running stitch was used with knotted cross stitches at intervals along its length. It was an easy introduction for those who hadn’t done much sewing and was very successful. A folder the history of Mount Felix as the No.2 New Zealand Hospital in WW1 was put together for the students so that they could understand the importance of the project. They also looked at the history of Lieutenant Colonel William George Malone, whose portrait is on the panel. When Lieutenant Colonel William George Malone’s face finally had features the tapestry came alive.

Sponsor: Walton and Hersham Decorative and Fine Arts Society

 

9. Gallipoli charge
10. Gallipoli charge
10. Gallipolli Charge

This panel depicts the land phase of the Gallipoli campaign,which began when troops from Australia and New Zealand landed at ANZAC Cove on Sunday 25 April 1915. The details of this campaign are detailed elsewhere in the exhibition. The casualties on the Allied side were enormous before the eventual retreat and evacuation in December. It was as a response to these casualties that the 2nd NZ Hospital at Mount Felix was requisitioned.

The Gallipoli Campaign, over the course of 25 April 1915 – 9 January 1916, left almost
400,000 men dead or wounded:
Ottoman: 251, 309
Allied forces: 141, 537
Australian: 28, 150
New Zealand: 7, 991

This panel, along with the others in the sequence, was particularly challenging to design due to the sensitivity of the subject matter.

Sponsors: R. C. Sherriff Trust