The Last Invasion Tapestry

Recently I had the opportunity of seeing and admiring the Last Invasion Tapestry.  As the name suggests, this commemorates and tells the story of the last invasion of mainland Britain by a foreign invader.  Of course, these islands have been subjected to many invasions over the years, some with significant consequences: the Battle of Edington in 878, for example, when Alfred the Great and the men of Wessex defeated the Danes and laid the foundation for the English nation.  But the last one?  Not 1066, though there were certainly battles fought valiantly against invaders – at Fulford, Stamford Bridge and Senlac Hill – in that year. (And a tapestry too!)  Nor yet 1217, when at the Battle of Lincoln – another vital though largely forgotten battle - William Marshal, Guardian of England and Regent for nine-year-old Henry III, defeated Louis of France who had claimed the throne of England after the death of King John and then invaded to back up his claim.

It was in 1797, while Britain was at war with France,  that the French planned an invasion to liberate Ireland.  As part of this plan, in order to prevent British reinforcements reaching Ireland, it was decided to attack Bristol, or failing that, to land in Cardigan Bay.  So it was that in February 1797 four French ships, flying British colours, anchored in perfect weather off Carreg Wasted, a rocky headland just west of Fishguard.  During the night soldiers were brought ashore and began to move inland.  All seemed to be going according to plan. 

However, only two days later the French surrendered unconditionally.  It would seem that the sight of the ships leaving for Ireland, the antagonism of the local people armed with whatever makeshift weapons they could find, the local militia, and the approach of soldiers from further afield, all combined to cause them to give up.  The final straw, the story goes, was the sight of a group of local Welsh women dressed in their traditional red cloaks and tall black hats, looking uncannily like approaching British infantrymen.  So ended the last invasion! 

The tapestry was designed and made for the Bicentenary in 1997.  It is 30.4m long by 53cm deep, has 37 scenes and took four years to complete.  A local artist drew a quarter-size cartoon of the whole design then, after it had been checked for historical accuracy, painted each scene full size.  After this came tracing; transferring the design to fabric stretched on specially made frames; inking over the design; and finally the stitching.  Over 80 local people were involved in the project.  The result, which is displayed in Fishguard library, is well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area!

But what struck me particularly was that it took 178 different shades of wool to reproduce the original image.  Only with such a large number could the beauty of the watercolour painting be truly seen.. 

The Apostle John writes: Beloved, now are we children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.  (1 John 3:2)

‘Like Him’ - can that really be?

Yes, says the Apostle Paul: And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (1 Corinthians 15:49) 

As the Apostle John looked into heaven he saw, not 178, but ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands: the Lord’s redeemed people, each one unique, yet each one like Him.  So great is the beauty of the Lord Jesus!

What is your beloved more than another beloved? … My beloved is white and ruddy, chief among ten thousand… Yes, he is altogether lovely.  This is my beloved, and this is my friend.

                                                                                      Song of Songs 5:9-16


Jesus, Jesus, all-sufficient,

Beyond telling is Thy worth;

In Thy Name lie greater treasures

Than the richest found on earth.

Such abundance

Is my portion with my God.


In Thy gracious face there’s beauty

Far surpassing everything

Found in all the earth’s great wonders

Mortal eye hath ever seen.

Rose of Sharon,

Thou Thyself art heaven’s delight.


                   William Williams

                   trans Bobi Jones