Care Home Open Day proved to be a fabulous day full of activities for visitors, residents, friends and family alike! Celebrating Arts in Care was this year's theme for Care Home Open Day.

Residents, carers, friends, relatives and members of the Knit & Natter Group all came together to create a wonderful tapestry depicting many aspects and significant events in Malmesbury’s history.  The tapestry, in all its spectacular 3-D glory, really is a sight to behold in real life; a tableau made from many different materials to celebrate Malmesbury’s history.

As Helen, one of the Activities team, said:

“The tapestry was the brainchild of the residents reminiscing about areas in Malmesbury that they remembered from their earlier years. The Art Club which was set up by one of our residents who sadly passed away recently, is really important to those who attend and I wanted to combine the two aspects to create something meaningful to the residents. The idea was to make it a collaborative effort of everyone here at Athelstan house, from the residents and their families to the carers. We have so much talent that I have been amazed to discover through working on this project and the discussions that have arisen from it have been wonderful. I myself have learnt a lot about the history of Malmesbury, as well as the residents.”

One of our carers, Mark is very talented and created the Abbey out of wood.  Our wonderful Knit and Natterers rose to the challenge admirably. Maureen knitted the monks and the wonderful War memorial that stands in the Triangle in Malmesbury. The residents painted the buildings and talked about their memories as they did so, from the apostle spoon to the Flying Monk Pub.

Those who struggled to remember, saw the silk mills with the many windows and knew straight away what the painting depicted. Rose who does not normally come to the art sessions was enormously proud of her painting of the town bridge. Maurice and Barb talked about their early days working for the radio company ECKO, post war, which they wanted to be represented.

Members of the team and families who came in talked about their memories of learning to swim at the open-air pool which was a place you could go all day everyday throughout the summer, although many of our residents said that they themselves cannot swim!

We have the old railway that some of the residents remember. It doesn’t exist anymore but many remembered travelling on it, boarding at Station Yard. Lynn, from our Knit and Natter group knitted our proud swans and Sue embroidered beautiful textured detail to the weir there. During one of our sessions we talked about the lace makers of Malmesbury, which many assume is an art that had died out long ago. This is not so; several of our Knit and Natterer volunteers are lace makers and Di made the beautiful lace maker’s cushion complete with bobbins and lace. Dorothy donated her last piece of lace that she had made with just her left hand after her stroke.

We had children join our sessions and they painted the train and pigs after the residents told them some of the stories. The ‘Tamworth Two’ went down in local folklore when they managed to escape death from a local abattoir by swimming across the river and running around Malmesbury for a week being chased by many local and national news teams. Its ok, they were caught and lived out the rest of their piggy lives on a farm in Somerset!

One child made King Athelstan’s tomb out of salt dough for the tapestry. We were a little worried about how it would hold up but it looks really good. There is also the Market Cross, a place where teenagers hang out at the weekend or a place for weary shoppers to sit. Also Burton Hill School who would hold their yearly fetes for the community and the Gate House leading to the Abbey and the old workhouse which was the home of the late Jane Winch, the founder member of our Art Club.

Hannah Twynnoy’s grave is also depicted and may seem a tad morbid but the story fascinates tourists and children alike as she was mauled by a tiger that escaped from the circus. Many of our residents can remember the poem on her tombstone as locals came to memorise it over the years.

Cracker Clarks monkey, another circus animal is also featured on the tapestry.  He apparently tried to bite anyone who ­­­­­­­­came close to him as he was chained to the walls near Station Yard.

We used the pictures from Facebook’s ‘Malmesbury Now and Then’ page to learn about the stories after hearing them first from relatives. The Old Bell hotel that is haunted by the ‘Grey Lady’ was painted as a joint effort by Gladys and her daughter. Finally, Walter Powell’s Balloon is a part of Malmesbury’s history that not many residents knew about. This was the story of the local MP who flew out to sea after taking off from the Cross Hayes, never to be seen again.  Everyone found that particular story fascinating! Even the local Brownies donated a beeswax candle to go on the tapestry after they made them on one of their outings.

The tapestry itself is a sensory mural that can be accessed through sight, touch and smell senses, as lavender was added too.  It enabled those who have lost their sight to visualise and interact with the mural through touch. The whole project would not have been possible if it were not for the help of the residents, their families and the wonderful volunteers we have here at Athelstan house.   

And news of this significant work of art has already spread amongst the community; the local museum is keen to capture the residents’ memories of growing up and living in Malmesbury.

A huge thank you to all involved!