Sunday, 12 June 2016

Bristol Orphanage Samplers

"Why do Bristol Orphanage samplers look the same?".  That is a good question and one I have been asked several times following LOUISA COULIMORE'S  release.

The samplers do have a similar format. The teachers in the orphan houses at Ashley Downs taught using a model sampler and carefully laid down "drills" .

The girls stitched rows of alphabets and numerals in assorted fonts, and below these lines the girls would add motifs of their own choosing copied from the teaching model.

Whilst samplers stitched by a girl from a well-off family were displayed in the home as evidence of her skill in needlework, her good upbringing and refined domesticity, those made by girls at the orphanage served to demonstrate to potential employers their ability to sew, mark and mend personal and household linen. Most girls went into domestic service on leaving the orphanage.

1 (1)Mary Jeffries 1867 Image © Bristol City Museums

Mary Jeffries, who made this sampler in 1867 , was born in 1851. Her parents had died of cholera and she was admitted to the Orphanage aged just five years old.

Louisa's sampler was stitched a several years later, between 1874 and 1877. Even though the girls were in different houses you can see clearly see the similarities.

Louisa Coulimore, A Bristol Orphanage Sampler

Although the Bristol Orphanage samplers are similar and intended as a means of demonstrating proficiency and diligence they do reveal little flashes of individuality from their young makers.

The girls were taught by "rote" repeating drills laid out by the Bristol and District Teachers’ Association.
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The teaching was divided into eight ‘standards’, according to the age and ability of the scholar.

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First they had to learn "Needle drill", "Position drill" and "Hemming stitch".

Images © of The Fitzwilliam Museum

In addition to embroidery  the girls were taught to sew and knit. The boys also learnt to knit.
Within Louisa's chart, in addition to the graph, we have included 5 pages of background information on George Müller, his orphanage, and Louisa's own history together with photographs and orphanage records for you to enjoy.



The following appeared in the New Zealand Herald on 20 December 1871.


Did you spot that this drill was for boys?

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