This is a lovely little English sampler worked on very fine linen with silk thread. It has lots of interesting motifs, including angels, birds, tiny butterflies, footed urns filled with flowers and (what I assume to be) fruit and a floral border. Ann’s sentiment reads “With care and cost this have I wrought / And finished with A Virgin thought / and by this work you plainly see / the care my parents took of me”. It is a charming needlework in very good condition. If you inspect very closely there is a tiny hole a little below the left-hand bird and a tiny repair in front of the left-hand butterfly. There are a few tiny spots of discoloration sprinkled throughout but, again, it is not noticeable.
Ann Boutle’s life is an interesting and sad story. She was born to Edward and Ann (née Hegley) Boutle on August 8, 1808. The next document found for Ann was a baptism record in 1822. Research did not find a solid reason Ann’s parents waited until she was 14 before having her baptism. However, I did find that in 1820, Ann was listed in “England & Wales Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Register”. What is this register, you ask? Well in the 19th century Non-Conformists were Methodists, Wesleyans, Baptists, Independents, Protestant Dissenters, Congregationalist, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Quakers (Society of Friends), Dissenters and Russian Orthodox. It appears that Ann’s parents were not associated with the Church of England and so they had to register separately. Looks like the Church wanted to keep an eye on those who did not follow its teachings. Perhaps whatever religion Ann grew up under, she could not be baptized until she was “saved.”
Ann attended Raine’s Foundation Schools. Raine’s schools were free for 50 boys and 50 girls from the Parish of Saint George (where Ann was baptized). The girls entered school at 8 years and after 2 years of school, 10 girls were chosen to transfer to boarding school where they received domestic training. After 4 years of boarding school training, these girls were placed as apprentices and servants. Raine’s set up a trust to pay for the marriage of six unmarried girls chosen by the trustees each Christmas from applicants who had spent four years in the boarding-school, had attained the age of 22, had been given certificates of good character by their employers, and were intending to marry local men of good repute. The girls in the boarding-school were kept entirely separate from their parents who had to relinquish to the trustees the placing of the children when their four years were finished. The outer gate was to be kept locked, no girl was to go out on errands or to get medical relief, and holidays were restricted to four days, and the girls were not allowed to see or speak to their parents. Poor Ann may have been one of the “Wedding Girls” covered by Raine’s trust. She married at the age of 37 in 1845 to John Weedon. The record lists both as of “Full” age. John’s “Condition” was listed as “Bachelor” and Ann’s as “Spinster”! Other records show that at the time of marriage, Ann was 37 and John was 25. Ann and John baptized a daughter, Ann Sarah, in 1849. John died in 1889 after a time in the “Workhouse” for people who could not support themselves. The 1861 Census shows Ann living in the home of Robert Trumper as a housekeeper and in 1871 as a “domestic servant.” Although I did not find a registration of a divorce, it appears that the Weedon’s split prior to 1861. There is no mention of their daughter who would have been 12 in 1861. Ann died in 1873 at the age of 65.
Ann’s story is one of the life of poor people in 19th century England. It provides us with reason to stop and ponder how difficult life can be for some. But Ann’s education at Raine’s school helped her create a beautiful sampler even after she had graduated and was surely a servant or apprentice of wealthier people. Ann completed her sampler when she was 27, not yet married and possibly to use in her applications for the “marriage privilege” from Raine’s school. It is a flawless sampler made by a young woman hoping for a better life.
The sampler measures 10 ½” x 10” and resides in a really stunning period gilt ripple frame measuring 13” x 12 ½”. I think Ann would be proud to see her sampler today.