Councillor Roy Perry, Leader of Hampshire County Council has proposed the historic hall as a display venue, ahead of an expected announcement about the loan, by French President Emmanuel Macron, during his visit to the UK on Thursday (18 January). The tapestry - which depicts the Norman Conquest of England - would not be transferred before 2020 and no venues have yet been chosen.
Councillor Perry said: “The Great Hall of Winchester Castle would be a very appropriate venue to display the Bayeux Tapestry, should it come to England. Winchester Great Hall is the second largest mediaeval hall in England after Westminster Hall, and Winchester was the Anglo-Saxon capital of England at the time of the Norman Conquest.
“Already, ferries cross the Channel daily between Normandy and Hampshire, so it would be easy for French tourists to visit. While in Hampshire, they could also see the Norman-built Winchester Cathedral which includes a statue of Joan of Arc, and take in the New Forest where the Conqueror’s son William Rufus met his end - killed by an arrow - possibly repaying the arrow that struck King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Visitors could also see Southwick House, north of Portsmouth where Allied Forces, under the Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower, planned the D Day landings in Normandy.
“As a gesture in return, and subject to specialist advice, we could perhaps loan to France, King Arthur’s Round Table which is on display in Winchester’s Great Hall. Actually what we have on display is a mediaeval round table constructed as a replica of King Arthur’s - probably in the reign of Edward I. It was painted during the reign of Henry VIII, putting Henry in the position of King Arthur, and naming the knights of the Arthurian legend.
“Of course, further discussions and tests will need to be carried out to make sure the 11th Century artwork would be safe to move from its current home in Bayeux, Normandy, just as we would need to be sure it is safe to transfer the Round Table from Winchester to France.
“I’ve written to the Prime Minister’s Office to set out our offer in advance of the President’s visit.”
Winchester Castle was founded in 1067 by William the Conqueror, the year after his victory at the Battle of Hastings. Construction on the present Great Hall was started in 1222 during the reign of Henry III, (Henry of Winchester) and it remains one of the finest surviving mediaeval aisled halls.
The Great Hall is open daily and would make a magnificent and appropriate historic setting for the Bayeux Tapestry during its stay in England. Winchester Castle was home to a number of French princesses married to English Kings, including Eleanor of Aquitaine and Eleanor of Castille.Find out more about the Great Hall