Monday 6 September 2010

A Sampler Getting it Wrong?

Mary Ann Odem's sampler of 1812 has a very precise, architectural view of a London church. Not St Paul's Cathedral designed by Sir Christopher Wren, although the elaborate dome, paired towers and baroque buttresses have points in common with that building, but St Paul's Church in Covent Garden, where tourists gather today to watch acrobats peform. Known as the Actors' Church, I am sad to say, it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the one on Mary Ann's sampler. So much for my theory of samplers being useful historical documents.
As you can see from this recent photo of St Paul's Covent Garden, the church is designed along more classical, austere and considerably less fanciful lines. Inigo Jones was the designer and the church was complete in 1633. So what is going on? I don't really know. Has Mary Ann's teacher confused the two chuches? But where are the colonnades that front St Paul's Cathedral - on the sampler there is a very visible single, albeit, large door and nothing more. St Paul's Covent Garden was burnt in 1795 just 17 years before Mary stitched her sampler. Many designs were put forward for its replacement; people were wanting something less austere. However, it was finally decided to rebuild the church according to its original design. Could this image then be one of the proposed projects for a new St Paul's Church, one which was never accomplished? Perhaps someone knows. This sampler is for auction at Brightwell's Auction on 8 September - it is Lot 679 with an estimate of £270-£350.
This pair of cross-stitched wall pockets of 1830 (does anyone know what they were used for?) are also for auction by Brightwell's, they are Lot number 678 and have an estimate of £40-£50.


  1. I love this little church - it's a very poignant place. I was first alerted to it's designation as "The Actor's Church" by Helene Hanff's book, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street... She visited it in the mid-60's, and the newest actor buried there was Vivien Leigh. When I made the pilgrimage in 2006, I noted that her one-time husband, of course - Lord Laurence Olivier - is in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey... a rather grander final resting place.

    I think Vivien Leigh may be more important to Americans than her countrymen in some respects - Gone with the Wind is on many "deserted island" lists!

    Another noteworthy item (at least to me, hahaha) is that the film My Fair Lady opens on the steps of this church...

    When I visited London, I saw a lot of churches - this was one of the highlights for me.


  2. this is what I could find... a hard topic to research!
    From:Sampler View Of Colonial Life [Paperback]
    Mary Cobb
    "A place to store valuable papers."

    a mention in another place that they were made to hold the family hymnal.

    The material used is varied and although we think of these hangable vases as mainly ceramic, they have been made with glass, wood, tin, copper, and cloth. Early references mention wood boxes hung on walls at strategic locations near entry doors or by the hearth, holding candles, matches, or eating utensils. Pockets made from scraps of cloth would hold sewing items – scissors, thread, thimble or darning egg.

    picture of 1882 wall pocket


  3. Thank you both very much for this helpful information. I could do with a pocket to hang beside my bed for my glasses - I am always knocking them on the floor from the top of my books!