Bosham’s part in English history could take centre stage thanks to plans to bring the Bayeux Tapestry to UK soil.
There is great delight at the news the world-famous artefact is set to leave France for the first time in 950 years. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the Norman conquest of England, culminating in the Battle of Hastings.
The tapestry is closely linked to Bosham church, which is one of the very few buildings in England portrayed in the masterpiece. As the home of powerful, wealthy King Harold, Bosham’s church and manor house both feature in the first four panels of the tapestry.
Potential homes include the British Museum, Westminster and Canterbury cathedrals, as well as Hastings in East Sussex.
However, the tapestry also has a hugely significant direct link with West Sussex as the first four panels feature historic Bosham church.
A perfect replica of the panels can be seen in the church to this day.
It was worked by Kathleen Todd, from Nottingham, and given to the church in 1964 in memory of Kathleen’s sister Olive Alchin, who lived in Bosham.
The ‘Bosham’ panels are captioned in Latin and read: ”King Edward; here Harold Earl of the English rides with his attendants to Bosham; the Church; here Harold took to the sea”.
They not only feature the church but also a house, probably Harold’s manor house.
Bosham church archivist Joan Langhorne said there was a strong historical connection between Bosham and King Harold.
At the time depicted in the tapestry, Harold was a very wealthy man and the most powerful earl in all England - and his sister was married to King Edward.
He owned a great deal of land around Bosham, among other areas, including a fine palace, and kept his large fleet of ships there.
Bosham vicar the Reverend Martin Lane said the tapestry depicted a significant point not only in the nation’s history but also more locally and ‘this was a story which continues to this day’.
Martin said: “I am very excited at the thought of the Bayeux Tapestry coming to the United Kingdom.
“Bosham church, where Harold Godwinson worshipped, later King Harold, still remains a place of worship and prayer - a living connection with this most compelling time in our shared history.”
Fishbourne-based mediaeval historian Terry Carlysle is keen for the tapestry to come to Chichester: “Bosham is one of the few places in this country that are named on the tapestry; Harold sailed from here on a voyage, the results of which many see as leading directly to the invasion and thus the victory of the Normans at Hastings.”
A Chichester District Council spokesperson said the prospect of the tapestry coming to the UK was ‘extremely exciting’.
She said: “It would be wonderful if it could come to Chichester district, but it is almost 950 years old and 70m long, which means that it is extremely fragile and requires a very large, environmentally stable museum space in which to be shown.
“We’ll keep a keen eye on developments to see how we could be involved and would certainly hope to programme a complementary display at the Novium Museum to highlight the district’s connection with this extraordinary tapestry.”
Joan Langhorne said the loan was a ‘great idea’, but that the tapestry should ‘definitely not’ come to Bosham.
“It is such a unique, valuable and delicate object that it will have to be most meticulously looked after during transportation and while on view and should be in an institution where they have the expertise, space and facilities to handle it correctly and are capable of managing the very large number of people who I am sure will want to see it.”