Oh Joy! There are now 20 samplers on the walls of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK. For too long there has only been a token presence in the museum of the 400 plus fabulous samplers kept hidden away in store. Now if you are visiting and go into the Fan Gallery on the ground floor of the Museum you will see three of the Judith Hayle Samplers - by Hannah Canting and her sister Mary, and Sarah Bantoft. You can read about the lives of these girls in The Judith Hayle Samplers by Edwina Ehrman (now textile and costume curator at the V&A). Also on display are 3 delightful items by Sarah Roberts - a pocket, a pouch and a sampler which will be featured an an upcoming Needleprint chart. Good things seem to come in 3s, and there are three darning samplers, one by Jane Brady of Ackworth School, one by Hannah Grimes Bright and a delightful polychrme floral darning sampler by Martha H. There are glorious 16th century band samplers, too, by Frances Bidon (1644), Elizabeth Creasey (1686), Mary Hurst incorporating a woman and girl in Elizabethan dress similar to the band sampler in the Goodhart Collection which has two girls and an older woman), and an unsigned example of 1653. Also from the 16th century are two geometic spot samplers rich in lozenges, and two whitework examples including one signed by Mary Clay of 1690. The display is completed by 3 examples of the 18th century - a Red House by Sarah Stuart of 1798, the tablet of the Ten Commandments seen in Quaker School Girl Samplers from Ackworth, and Elizabeth Rawliss' sampler of 1735 which includes a version of the Lord's Prayer.
If you continue into the gallery which houses illuminated books and miniature portraits you will find a wonderful example of a woman's coif of the 17th century rich with polychrome stawberries and acorns, a man's polychrome cap of the late 16th century, a band of fine Venetian lace circa 1600 and a fabulous stitched picture of the Stuart Dynasty with a portrait of ?Queen Henrietta Maria modelled upon carved wood covered with painted fabric, set in a fine oval cartouche surrounded by detached-petalled flowers. It is a revelation, but just a pity you have to duck and bob to avoid the glare and reflection of the lights on the display cabinet. But I am not really complaining - it is such a delight to have anything at all on display after the bleak years of next to nothing at all!