In 1797 the French invaded. Their shortlived, and pretty disorganised, incursion onto British soil is the last time anybody gained a foothold on the British mainland. The site of their attack was Fishguard on the southwest tip of Wales and today it is pretty much only in Fishguard that anybody remembers it. In 1993 somebody had the idea to put tell the story in the style of Bayeux tapestry and, amazingly, such a thing was done and finished in time for the 200th anniversary. Today, 215 years on from the day the combined forces of Irish republicanism, Revolutionary France and grumpy South Carolinans was repelled by a hastily assembled regiment under Lord Cawdor and landowner William Knox, the tapestry resides on floor one of the Fishguard Public Library, Town Hall, Tourist Information Centre and all other things municipal space.
The drawings and stylisation was led by Elizabeth Cramp, a watercolourist who sadly died a couple of years ago but the work – stitching, stitching and more stitching – was undertaken by an army of local women. One of the women was on hand to talk enthusiastically about the creation of the tapestry and also fill in a bit of local colour about the invasion. There was also a steady flow of people walking in at first bemused and then entranced. This is local history energetically told and beautifully presented. The permanent space for the tapestry also features a whole host of artefacts, some explanatory boards telling the whole story – including the apparent surrender of the French force to Jemima Nicholas and her twelve angry women. There’s a nice video too.
It costs 50p to park all day in Fishguard. Entrance to the tapestry is free. You have no excuse.