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William III tablecloth given new lease of life at Museum of Orange Heritage

One of the more unique items in the Museum of Orange Heritage has been given something of a facelift.

The William III Damask Linen tablecloth, which dates back to 1675, has been a feature of the museum at Schomberg House for the last four years. However, extensive work has taken place to improve its setting and lighting in a bid to enhance its appeal to visitors.

The tablecloth was commissioned as a gift to William of Orange after his victory at the Siege of Grave in 1674. It was essentially a gesture of thanks from the city leaders for ending the short period of French occupation.

Curator of the Museum of Orange Heritage, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said he was delighted with how the new-look display had taken shape.

He also highlighted that the importance of the Damask Linen Tablecloth both to the Orange Institution, through its links with William of Orange, and the fascinating story behind it.

“We are absolutely delighted with how our new display of the William of Orange Damask Linen Tablecloth has taken shape. The alterations to how the tablecloth is being displayed, along with vast improvements to the lighting, mean visitors will be given a vastly enhanced viewing experience,” said Dr Mattison.

“This item, which dates back well over 300 years, is a fantastic part of Orange history. And the story of how it came to Belfast really adds to the overall appeal of the exhibit.

“This is an item of vast historical appeal and we are privileged and delighted that we have it here, in the Museum of Orange Heritage.”

Former owner of the tablecloth, Mr Sam Wilson, said he was very pleased with how the tablecloth was displayed, adding that it was a ‘key part of European history and culture’.

Mr Wilson, from Belfast, came across the item in a box of linen and other textiles he had purchased from the Panacea Society when it began selling a selection of items in 2000.

The Society came into ownership of the tablecloth after the First World War when it was part of a collection of items from the Sandringham Estate that were sold to benefit widows and orphans.

Mr Wilson has spent many years researching the rich history associated with the tablecloth, which he described as ‘an item of unique cultural heritage’.

Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Rev Mervyn Gibson described the tablecloth as ‘foundational’ adding that it set the scene for visitors to the museum.

Rev Gibson said: “This is a world-class item that is here in our museum. We’re batting well above our weight, other major museums only have napkins of this – but here, at the Museum of Orange Heritage, we have the full tablecloth.”

The tablecloth was purchased for the museum with assistance from the Friends of Schomberg House who were represented at the relaunch by Dr Andrew Charles and Desmond Brownlie.

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