When Elizabeth’s sampler first arrived, we were so excited by her gentle beauty. The sampler had probably been hung, for some time, in a position where dappled sunshine fell across the linen. Rather than detract, the faded elegance has added to her beauty. From the back of Elizabeth’s sampler, and three others from the same school that are in the collection of Hands Across the Sea Samplers, we know that these samplers originally burst with vibrant colours. We chose to replicate the time mellowed colours on the front, with occasional help from the back. The soft pinks, creams and olives of today are a delight for the eye.
Elizabeth made good use of her linen choosing many beautiful motifs to fill her sampler. There are three sections contained within a meandering vine which is heavily laden with a profusion of violas, star flowers and snowdrops. In the top section flanked by baskets and urns filled with a profusion of flowers and fruit is one of our favourite verses ~ “Next unto God Dear Parents I address …….”
This verse was very popular with school girls to stitch on their samplers. It first appeared in 1695 in an educational manual entitled “The Young Man’s Companion: Or, Arithmetick Made Easy” by William Mather. The book was an encyclopaedia of “practical lessons and useful information applicable to many professions and was intended for the use of both the schoolmaster and the self taught”.
Dividing the top and middle section is a beautiful floral border of violas, carnations, roses and star flowers. In the middle section there are various birds including a distinguished green parrot and what could be a chaffinch. They all face towards a particularly pretty central cartouche which surrounds Elizabeth’s name and age. The last two digits of the year have been removed. This may have been done by Elizabeth later in her life to conceal her true age. Samplers where the date has been deliberately removed are known as “Vanity Samplers”.
On the bottom section we find the highlight of Elizabeth’s sampler. A magnificent Temple of Fame nestled between two lofty fruiting trees. Two angels with trumpets signifying that they are the voice of God hover either side of the temple. Butterflies, moths, bugs, birds, crowns, stars, deer, dogs and lions fill this section.
Through our research we know of several “Temple of Fame” samplers that have strong similarities. The sampler stitched by Mary Ann Clark in 1829 is strikingly homogeneous. Elizabeth and Mary Ann both finished their samplers at eleven years of age. Mary Ann reversed the middle and bottom sections on her sampler. Whilst we will never know for certain it is possible that Mary Ann was baptised in 1818 in Wednesbury, Staffordshire and Elizabeth in Wednesfield, Staffordshire in 1817.