Thursday, 7 April 2016

What is in a name?


What a splendid name - Betty Pleanderleath. We had to stop and find out more about this sampler and Betty.

Her unusual and famous Scottish surname originates from the lands of Plenderleith in the parish of Oxnam, in Roxburghshire, Scotland. The place name itself is thought to derive from the Old British "pren", timber, and "dre", farm, plus an uncertain final element, possibly a river name, from the Gaelic "lite", wet, and Welsh "llaith", damp, moist. The surname, which is also found as "Plenderleath" in the modern idiom, is first recorded in the late 12th Century.

A search of the family history sites has not turned up a birth record but from the marriage record of Elizabeth Plenderleith to John Gourlie on 5th November 1758 in Edinburgh Betty is probably the Elizabeth daughter of the advocate David Plenderleith and Jean Gordon.
We do know that Betty attended school in Edinburgh as she recorded her teacher's name, Mrs Seton,  on her sampler.

Schoolgirl samplers of the 18th and 19th century such as Betty's survive in large numbers not only because they were an important part of  a girl's education but they were protected and preserved by being framed and glazed and passed down through the generations.
These samplers were often stitched with motifs learnt by the teacher in her own youth.
Adam and Eve and  the serpent take centre stage. The tree has a flat base and five little humps at the top.

The  formal trees, hares and baskets of flowers can also be found on German and Dutch Samplers.

The border of bold flowers and twisted stems can be seen on many Scottish samplers and was still being copied well into the 19th century.

In the bottom corners of the sampler are geometrical designs with a Florentine pattern with two lions between. These designs would be used when making cushion covers later in life when Betty had her own household.

The peacock with its six tail feathers can also be found on Danish and Scandinavian samplers.

It is not surprising to see international motifs on Scottish samplers, in particular those from The Netherlands. The two countries not only shared the religion of Calvinism but strong trade links. Scottish ships carried coal and hides to the Dutch ports and brought back textiles especially fine linen.


Betty's sampler is very similar to another in the collection of the National Museums of Scotland -  Allison Ruddiman which was stitched 4 years earlier in 1740.

We wonder if Allison attended Mrs Seftons too.

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Images © National Museums Scotland