Canterbury Bicentennial Tapestry
Canterbury Bicentennial Tapestry, Campsie, 1988.
The Canterbury Bicentennial Community Committee elected to produce this tapestry by way of the City of Canterbury commemorating the Bicentenary of European settlement in Australia. The Committee commissioned tapestry artist Ms Margaret Grafton 1 to create this tapestry which was to portray in pictures the history the District of Canterbury.
Before producing her design for the City of Canterbury, Ms Grafton spent twelve months researching historic documents at Canterbury City Council, Canterbury & District Historical Society and the Local History Collection at the City of Canterbury Library. It took Ms Grafton a further ten months to weave the tapestry.
Aesthetically, the Canterbury Bicentennial Tapestry is a beautifully designed collage of interwoven snapshots telling tales from Canterbury's past through pictures. Technically, it is a superior piece of planning because it was necessary to weave it from side to side across the scenes in the design rather then top to bottom.
Symbolism of Tapestry Scenes
Through a clever integration of scenes of historical importance to the District of Canterbury, the tapestry traces life in Canterbury City pre European settlement to 1988. These scenes include:
- Cooks River which is prominently represented.
- An Aboriginal man with two young women is fishing from red river gum bark canoes. There is a fine haze of smoke rising from the bottom of a canoe. It is believed ochre was kept burning in the canoes for night fishing and to cook the catch. These Aborigines are known to have survived on the Cooks River in Canterbury until the early 1800s.
- There is the front half of a small boat probably depicting the arrival of the first Europeans to the district. It is recorded that a small exploratory party from the First Fleet sailed up Cooks River.
- The Reverend Richard Johnson, Chaplain of the First Fleet is depicted as he is associated with several firsts. . On 28th May 1793 he received the first land in what later was to become the City of Canterbury and grew the first wheat in the Canterbury District on this property which was near where Canterbury Racecourse is today. Ms Grafton has pictured him with one of his beloved cats which he brought with him to Australia - their names were Miss Puss and Tom Puss. It is believed he bought the first pet domestic cats to the colony.
- A group of convicts are depicted surrounded by wheat and maize as they were no doubt instrumental in the early clearing and development of the area.
- The two race horses ridden by jockeys in silks no doubt represent Canterbury District's long association with fine horses which began early in the Colony's history. In 1803 Robert Campbell began importing Arab horses from Calcutta for his own use and for sale to improve the breeding stock in Sydney. Campbell kept some of his stock on his country estate, Canterbury Farm. Canterbury Park Racecourse is partly on land once part of Canterbury Farm.
- Hannah Laycock is featured on the tapestry as she was the first woman to receive a grant of land in the Canterbury District. In August 1804 Governor King granted 500 acres to Hannah who was the wife of Thomas Laycock, Quartermaster of the New South Wales Corps. In gratitude Hannah called her farm "King's Grove" and Hannah, together with her sons, farmed the surrounding land which was heavily forested with huge Ironbark trees.
- Governor Macquarie and his wife visited Hannah Laycock's property on 13th December 1810. Governor Macquarie's Journal says that they crossed:
"Cooks River twice over a very slender bad bridge within 2 miles of Mrs Laycock's farm and is rather dangerous for a carriage".
This visit to the district was a special event to the small community. It is represented on the tapestry as a coach drawn by horses with the coach driver heralding the Governor's arrival by blowing a horn. It is traveling across a small bridge which crossed the Cooks River at the bottom of Beamish Street Campsie.
- Small farm cottages with smoking chimneys are featured together with a farmer cultivating the land near Cooks River. On the other side of the river neatly cultivated market gardens are represented.
- The six storey high Sugar Company Mill (the Sugar Mill) at Canterbury is prominently featured on the tapestry. Constructed in 1840 it changed hands several times over the years before being converted into a private residence in the 1990s. It is most remembered by locals as the Hutton's Bacon Factory. The Sugar Mill is the oldest surviving privately constructed factory in Australia and is listed as a heritage item on National, State and local registers.
- A heavily laden cart drawn by a bullock team crossing Prout's Bridge is a very significant feature. Prout's Bridge, completed in 1840, was the first to cross Cooks River in the district and greatly improved traveling time to the small community. Prior to the construction the 'bridge, it was necessary to either cross the river by punt or take a more circuitous route.
- There is the steeple and bell tower of a church.
- The Towers, one of the largest surviving mansions in the district is also featured on the tapestry. Located at 31 Forsyth Street, Belmore it is a Victorian rustic Gothic house built in 1888 by David Jones - a builder by trade and amateur astronomer. According to his descendants, he built the tower of the building to view the stars.
- The first steam train is cleverly combined with the Canterbury Pilgrims of 15th Century England depicted in the steam of the train. The opening of a rail service brought suburban development and significant growth to the small rural community. The Canterbury Pilgrims were added as a 'whimsy' by Ms Margaret Grafton from her parallel between 'Canterbury' and the steam train bringing so many people to settle in the district.
- By special request from the community, national flowers from the following countries of origin were depicted:
- English rose
- Irish shamrock
- Scottish thistle
- Korean hibiscus
- Lebanese cedar
- Greek olive
- Cambodian lotus.
- The shield from the City of Canterbury coat of arms is prominently featured. The Shield identifies the situation of Canterbury and the source of its name, being based on the pattern of the ancient shield of Canterbury, Kent, England which displays a gold lion on red above the three choughs (black crow-like birds with red beaks and legs), attributed as the arms of St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury 1162-1170. To the choughs is added a blue wave for Cook's River, and each holds a distinctive black cross from the arms of the Archbishop of Canterbury. On the red 'chief' at the top is the gold lion taken from the former Council seal. The coat of arms was granted by Letters of the King of Arms, H.M. College of Arms, London, on 23rd April 1979.
Today the tapestry hangs in The Chambers on the top floor of the Canterbury City Council Administration Building, 137 Beamish Street, Campsie.
Campsie's past: a history of Campsie and Croydon Park, NSW by Brian J Madden and Lesley Muir. [Campsie, NSW]: Canterbury Municipal Council, 1988.
Canterbury farm: 200 years by Brian Madden and Lesley Muir. [Sydney, NSW]: Canterbury and District Historical Society, 1993.
Earlwood's past: a history of Earlwood, Undercliffe and Clemton Park, NSW by Brian J Madden and Lesley Muir. [Campsie, NSW]: Canterbury Municipal Council, 1989.
They're racing at Canterbury by Lesley Muir. [Sydney, NSW]: Canterbury and District Historical Society, .
Margaret Grafton, with thirty years experience in tapestry weaving, had produced an heraldic Coat of Arms and a magnificent rug for the NSW Parliament building, works for Ashfield and Waverley Councils, the Holroyd Centre at Merrylands and the Tamworth City Art Gallery. return