Monday 16 September 2013

What's In A Name? - New Witney Antiques Sampler Exhibition * 21 October - 3 November 2013

This exhibition of Samplers looks into the legacy left by now forgotten school girls and their teachers in attempting to peel back time, finding perhaps forgotten details of their daily lives and the places they lived. The samplers cut across all levels of society embracing the affluent and the poor, sometimes leading us into unexpected places. Who would suspect looking at Eliza Manley's sampler that her father was Portland, Massachusetts' first bank robber and that the Royal Freemason's School in 1789 should stipulate that amongst the requirements for entry the applicant must have already had cowpox or smallpox? Perhaps a wise precaution given the infectious nature and high mortality rate from the disease.

In 1802 at an exceptionally young age of fourteen, Massey Gibbons married John Carpenter aged sixteen. This was just a year after she had worked her sampler, her childhood no doubt coming to an abrupt end. History has a habit of repeating itself as we see in a small rare sampler worked in 1845 featuring a list of the engagements between British and Afghan forces in 1842. Cabul, a familiar name to us, figuring on the 16th September 1842.

We see the family register of the Chorlton Family. John and Alice, both unable to write, sign their names on the marriage certificate with a cross. The sampler brings home the high rate of infant mortality past generations suffered, six of the Chorlton's ten children dying before they were six years of age.

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