Royal School of Needlework
Sir Christopher Wren
- Original design
- Sir Christopher Wren, 1689
The 2018 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2019 programme mid-August.
The Royal School of Needlework (RSN) is the international centre of excellence for the art of hand embroidery. With a thriving education programme, the RSN offers a range of courses in hand embroidery for beginners through to advanced.
Steeped in history with unrivalled expertise in the techniques of hand embroidery, the RSN has taken this captivating, traditional art and made it relevant today. Students can choose to study short courses, a Certificate & Diploma, BA (Hons) Degree or gain a teaching qualification through the Future Tutors programme. The RSN attends exhibitions and hosts Collection Study Days, Tours and Private Lessons.
1872: Lady Victoria Welby established the School of Art Needlework at 38 Sloane Street, Kensington to:
• keep the art and techniques of hand embroidery alive;
• promote embroidery as fine art;
• offer paid occupation to educated young women who might otherwise find themselves destitute.
1875: We became the Royal School of Art Needlework, when Queen Victoria became our first Patron.
1922: We became the Royal School of Needlework.
1987: The RSN moved to Hampton Court Palace thanks to the support of our then Patron, Her Majesty The Queen Mother. Her Majesty was an active supporter of the RSN from 1923, when she first became President, until her death in 2002. When we needed to leave Kensington, the Patron made phone calls which saw the RSN move here.
Since January 2017, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall has been our Patron and she visited us in November of that year.
This year we celebrate 31 years at Hampton Court Palace!
During December 2014, the floor boards of the Royal School of Needlework Embroidery Studio 2 were lifted to try to understand why a dip had occurred in the floor. It was found that the supporting sleeper walls had a number of stacked supports, which were beginning to destabilise and the short walls themselves were sinking into what, 500 years ago, had been the east moat of the Palace.
The brick foundations that you can see in the picture are part of the 16th century Apartments that Henry VIII originally built for Anne Boleyn. Whilst the HCP team knew that remains of this type should be found in this area, the floor had not been lifted for a long time so these remains had never been exposed before.
The very thick red brick wall would have formed the most easterly wall of the Palace overlooking the gardens and was constructed for Anne Boleyn in the early 1530s. The bay window appears to be a later addition and may represent a change in the original plan or part of the remodelling of the area for Jane Seymour.
It is likely that the area of Studio 2 (from 1537) would have originally functioned as part of the Queen’s Wardrobe and on the first floor above would have been the Queen’s Withdrawing Room.
The thin inner wall, within the bay window, appears to be some 16th century engineering works, probably aimed at stabilising the building (as this whole area was built in to the moat).
This wall has been dated to between 1580-1610 from clay pipe evidence – the pipe found could be traced as being made by John Rosse in Kingston.
All of these structures were demolished by Sir Christopher Wren at the end of the 17th century to make way for the magnificent Baroque palace in which you are standing today which William III and Mary II began to rebuild in 1689. But the main walls of Anne’s apartments were sound so the foundations of the Baroque palace are built into those of the Tudor palace.
The RSN today occupies three parts of the Palace, for its Embroidery Studios, for the Classrooms and for the Archive Collection and Administration office.
It offers Embroidery Services at its Studio in Hampton Court Palace creating beautiful bespoke commissions for the future as well as restoring and conserving historical textiles and bringing heirlooms back to life. Customers come from all over the world, including fashion designers, Oscar nominees, cathedrals, private individuals and the Royal Family.
The RSN also offers an extensive range of short courses. As well as teaching at Hampton Court Palace, we teach across the UK in Exeter, Bristol, Rugby, Durham and Glasgow, and internationally in Ireland and North America, aimed at all skill levels from beginner to advanced. Courses range from stunning Gold and Crewelwork to Blackwork and Silk Shading. Tuition is delivered in small, friendly classes with expert RSN Tutors bringing a wealth of experience, technical knowledge and enthusiasm to each student.
We hold two exhibitions each year in the RSN Embroidery Studio. The current exhibition, ‘Animals in Embroidery’, features a 'parade' of over 100 different pieces, showcasing a 'flock' of different techniques from Blackwork and Silk Shading to Goldwork and Jacobean Crewelwork.
The work on display includes pieces by the RSN's current and past students on the RSN's Certificate & Diploma, Degree course, and Future Tutors programme, as well as from the RSN's Archive Collection.
You can view the exhibition during OHL and return another day for a guided tour (pre-booking essential) when you will be given an illustrated introduction to the RSN history and the current exhibition. Come and see a menagerie of animals, from a wild tiger and flamboyant flamingo to cute dogs and a peckish chipmunk. It's a zoo showcase!
There are different Tour options to suit all interests including Talk & Tours, Tour & Taster workshops (see image above), as well as Curator’s Tours that include rare insights to additional pieces from the RSN Collection. We also offer bespoke Group Tours. Tours start from £16 per person and the exhibition runs until December 2018.
See the website www.royal-needlework.org.uk for more information.