Canterbury Bicentennial Tapestry

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Canterbury Bicentennial Tapestry, Campsie, 1988.

As a permanent celebration of the Australian Bi-centenary in 1988, Canterbury Municipal Council commissioned the recognised weaver and designer, Margaret Grafton, to create a tapestry depicting the origins, growth and development of the Municipality of Canterbury, an area settled very early in the new colony of New South Wales.

The pattern of life and social change is reflected in certain events, buildings and personalities who provide the thread of the area’s history during the 200 years since the arrival of the First Fleet. The aboriginal inhabitants of the area are shown in a fishing scene with canoe and burning ochre light; The Rev. Richard Johnson, Chaplain of the First Fleet, who received the first grant of land in the area in 1793, is shown with his cat which he bought from England. He called his farm Canterbury Vale and grew the first wheat in the colony.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie who came to this district in 1810 during his first tour of the colony, is also featured, as is Hannah Laycock, whose acreage Kings Grove Farm was inspected by the Governor and praised in his report. The stands of trees on her property are also part of the tapestry’s representation of the unspoiled nature of the land and the early need for timber in the new settlement.

Other people connected with the growth of the district, and represented on the tapestry, are the Chinese market gardeners, the mechanics and artisans brought out to work for the Australasian Sugar Co., and the large number of nationals who settled in the area during the 200 years, who are represented by the various floral emblems of their countries; the rose of England, the Scottish thistle, the shamrock of Ireland, the olive of Greece, the cedar tree of Lebanon, the Cambodian lotus and the Korean hibiscus.

The Cooks River, so much a part of the district’s history, is linked with the punt and bridge built by Cornelius Prout and forms part of the shield of the Coat of Arms, granted to the Council in its centenary year in 1979. The shield also further emphasises Canterbury's name and its links with Canterbury, Kent, England with the three choughs from the arms of St. Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1160-1172. The Lion on the shield comes from the former seal of the Municipality. The close link with Canterbury, Kent, was forged by Reverend Johnson in naming his farm.

Early land subdivision is depicted by stylised patterns representing the Canterbury and Sugar Company Estates and the oldest industrial building, the Sugarworks, built in 1841 and still in existence, features prominently in the tapestry as it has done in the life of the community, first as a sugar refinery and later for many years as a bacon factory.

The train, another prominent feature of the tapestry, is included to recognise the development of the railway line which was a major catalyst in the opening of the district to residential and commercial growth. Threading their way through the smoke issuing from the engine, Margaret Grafton has woven a group of pilgrims from "The Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer, as a whimsical reference to the Municipality's association with the origins of its name and its Coat of Arms.