Industry News

The Auckland Project's campaign for Henry VIII’s Lost Tapestry reaches huge £1 million milestone

Publication Date: 09th Feb 2024

A campaign by Bishop Auckland regeneration charity, The Auckland Project, to save a national treasure has hit a huge £1million milestone, bringing the charity one step closer to acquiring the rare artefact. 

The vast 16th century tapestry of artistic, political and religious significance has attracted attention from thousands of people all over the world, raising over £1milion in donations since it launched in 2023. 

The pledges of support significantly contribute to the tapestry’s £4million price tag, with the remaining funding being sought from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Auckland Project is offering a fitting and symbolic home in the Faith Museum at Auckland Castle, once home to Henry VIII’s chief advisors, the Prince Bishops of Durham. 

The tapestry, Saint Paul Directing the Burning of the Heathen Books by Pieter Coecke van Aelst, was commissioned by King Henry VIII in 1535, at the time he severed the country’s ties with the Pope.  

Thought to have been lost for over 200 years, the tapestry reappeared in a private collection in Spain in the 1970s but was only identified as Henry VIII’s in 2014. It depicts Saint Paul and a scene of destruction reflecting violent change under Henry VIII’s reign. 

The tapestry is 18-feet-wide by 11-feet-high, made of silk, wool and gold and silver thread and produced at time when weaving was at its pinnacle within Europe.  

Edward Perry, Chief Executive Officer of The Auckland Project said: “Being able to bring a historically significant and unique artefact to Bishop Auckland would be a huge honour for The Auckland Project. Local people of all ages have delved enthusiastically into the tapestry’s rich history and the region has been incredibly generous and supportive of our campaign. Bishop Auckland is a special place, worthy of a treasure like this.” 

“With the support from people, charities and companies, we’ve reached the crucial £1million target and we are truly grateful to everyone that’s donated. The Just Giving link will remain open for several weeks, until we hear back from The National Lottery Heritage Fund in March about our bid for support. We hope to hang this special piece of history in a suitably grand and important home, our newly opened Faith Museum.” 

Opened in October last year, the Faith Museum explores 6,000 years of faith, and how belief has shaped Britain. Visitors will be able to see the tapestry with more historical context and alongside artefacts closely associated with these tumultuous years. Auckland Castle itself has a historical link to Henry VIII via his advisors Cuthbert Tunstall and Cardinal Wolsey, both Prince Bishops of Durham. 

“In recent years, The Auckland Project has made it its mission to bring nationally and internationally significant art to the North East, challenging the idea that art lovers must travel to London’s museums to see real treasures. Historical collections in The Spanish Gallery and Auckland Castle are complemented by the hundreds of artefacts that now have a place in the Faith Museum,” added Edward Perry. 

The Just Giving page for the tapestry remains open for several weeks.