Forget Bayeux, Leigh Park now has its own storytelling tapestry

William Wilson and Taleigha Brown with the new tapestry.   Picture: Paul Jacobs (110228-2)
William Wilson and Taleigha Brown with the new tapestry. Picture: Paul Jacobs (110228-2)
Forest School Leaders Dawn White and Sue Evans with their pupils outside the school

Picture: Habibur Rahman (180146-338)

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YOU’VE heard of the Bayeux Tapestry.

Now Leigh Park has one of its own.

Young and old on the estate have come up with a colourful creation depicting the story of the area.

The tapestry recounts its beginnings as a forest, its time as an opulent manor estate, and then the influx of thousands of people who were made homeless when Portsmouth was bombed in the 1940s.

The artwork is now in full view around the reception desk at Park Futures Children’s Centre in Sandleford Road.

Artists from Making Space – a community art scheme in Bishopstoke Road, Leigh Park – spent a week at the centre.

While there they gathered together artwork from parents and children, who cut out shapes for the tapestry.

The six panels were then sewn together to create a tapestry.

Helen Baker, children’s centre manager, said: ‘It’s absolutely wonderful.

‘Four generations of families now live in Leigh Park.

‘All the parents had so much fun cutting and drawing and doing some sort of artwork which they have never had the chance to do before.

‘There have been lots of comments of “I did that” and “We did that”.’

The artwork begins with the Forest of Bere and goes on to show the pretty manor house built by Sir George Staunton, a politician and botanist who bought Leigh Park in 1820.

It then depicts the gothic-style Victorian mansion built by William Stone MP, who bought the estate in 1861.

One panel shows the dramatic bombings of Portsmouth, which led to the city council buying 1,670 acres and starting work on the estate in 1949.

From a population of 3,500 in 1951, the estate has grown to almost 28,000.

Ami Lowman, 26, a heritage project worker at Making Space, said: ‘From this project we have learned that Leigh Park has a fascinating history – much more than many people realise.

‘From meeting people on the project, I don’t think people realised the history of the estate and why Leigh Park came about.

‘It’s not been here for ages and is a relatively new town.

‘It’s got a really interesting history and people should be proud of that.’

The tapestry is the culmination of a two-year project, which has been funded with £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.