A Bristol Orphanage Sampler

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A Bristol Orphanage Sampler

The Bristol Orphan Houses at Ashley Down in Bristol were at one time Britain's largest orphanage with over 2,000 children in residence. The orphanage was founded by George Müller in 1836 and many of the residents would have stitched a sampler to demonstrate their proficiency.

Though all different, Bristol Orphanage samplers all follow a similar design. My version was inspired in particular by two historical examples. The first was stitched by Mary Ann Tipper in 1868 and is held in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The second was stitched by Rhoda Morley in 1875 and is held in the collection of the George Müller Foundation Museum in Bristol. I have used versions of the alphabets found in these and other Bristol Orphanage samplers, but I have filled in missing letters (particularly j and often w) and ensured that letter shapes reflect those in current usage.

The originals are stitched in Turkey red thread on linen, stitched over one making them very fine work. The finished size I have given below assumes that you are stitching over two and so results in quite a large sampler! If you want to try stitching over one, the finished size will be half as long, and half as wide.

Count size: 427 x 422

Finished size on 32ct linen: 26.6" x 26.4"

Stitched entirely in cross stitch

Features 10 uppercase alphabets, 6 lowercase alphabets, 4 sets of numerals, 16 corner motifs, 52 border designs and decorative motifs including a bible, dogs, cats, crowns, birds, buildings, a horse, a stream train and a steam boat.


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