The Sheldon Tapestry Map of Oxfordshire, a huge Elizabethan tapestry map of Oxfordshire and the surrounding counties, is currently on display to the public at the Weston Library. Find it in Blackwell Hall, just past the café on the left-hand side.
Woven in wool and silk, the map shows Oxfordshire and a vast area stretching from Cheltenham to central London, and measures 3.5 by 5.5 metres. The map is only partially complete—and has gone through a painstaking restoration process—but what remains features beautiful and incredibly detailed illustrations of 16th-century towns and villages, rivers and streams, forests, castles and cathedrals. The many places that survive intact on the map include Tudor London, Oxford’s dreaming spires and the White Horse at Uffington. The illustrations are remarkably true to the architectural style of the buildings, bridges and spires.
The Bodleian Libraries owns three of the Sheldon tapestry maps: the Oxfordshire map, the Worcestershire map and a fragment of the Gloucestershire map. The Warwickshire map is owned by Warwickshire County Council, and is housed at the Warwickshire Museum in Warwick. The Oxfordshire map and the Worcestershire map have been in our collections since 1809, when they were bequeathed to the Libraries by antiquarian Richard Gough. The Libraries later acquired a substantial fragment of what remains of the Gloucestershire tapestry map in 2007.
Online map talk
Find out more about this incredible map in this talk by the Bodleian's Maps team, including who commissioned these maps, what they show and why they're so important in the history of cartography.