Ann is a beautiful little Welsh sampler worked with a palette of bright colours that pop out from the linen. The sampler is framed by a simple but very effective border using sumptuous red and duck egg blue silks, and she continues to use some very vibrant colour combinations.
Ann lived in Glamorgan, South Wales and was born in 1849 in Aberavon near Port Talbot, which is just a few miles from Margam Church which she depicts. She tells us that she was 10 years old when she stitched her sampler in 1859. The earliest reference to Ann is from the census taken in 1851, where she is living near Margam with her father David, her brothers Morgan and John, and her sister Margaret. Her father is a widower, and his parents are living with the family, presumably to help look after the children, of which Ann at 2 years old is the youngest. Her father’s occupation is a collier (miner), and the area she lives in is dominated by coal and copper mining.
There is no record of Ann’s mother or when and how she died. The living conditions in the towns and villages were very hard, and diseases such as cholera and typhus were commonplace.
We find our next insight into Ann’s life recorded in the 1861 census, where she is still living with her family at Lower Constant, Taibach, which is a hamlet in Margam parish. Her father has remarried, and Ann now has a step mother, Mary. Her father is still a collier in the mine.
The lower part of Ann’s sampler is an extremely accurate depiction of Margam Church, which she very helpfully names. The Abbey Church of St Mary, to give it its full name, still stands today, and services take place regularly. The church describes itself as an Anglican parish in the Catholic tradition. I took this model there, so some Welsh air could flow through her. The church sits at the end of a short lane, and as you approach the large ornate iron gates supported by tall stone pillars, the 12th-century West front of the church that Ann knew and stitched comes into view. It is instantly recognisable – there is no mistaking it. The striking corner towers stand out, and the 3 lancet windows above the ornate door are all as she stitched them, down even to the small window and the line in the stone above the door. Ann’s use of colour and simple cross stitch are combined to great effect to create vibrant blocks of stitching to depict both structure and texture, thereby bringing the building to life. Her needle and thread take the place of a brush and paint. The sampler is truly beautiful and very relaxing to stitch.
Unfortunately, it has not been possible to positively follow Ann any further as some parish records are missing and her trail ends. However, she will always live on through this beautiful sampler.
The four graphs included in the download are:
Graph 1 ~ A nine-page colour symbol graph.
Graph 2 ~ A nine-page black and white symbol graph.
Graph 3 ~ A colour symbol graph with the words “Margam Church” charted over two threads and repositioned .
Graph 4 ~ A black and white symbol graph with the words “Margam Church” charted over two threads and repositioned .
The sampler is stitched entirely in cross stitch over two, with the expcetion of the words “Margam Church”. If you wish to stitch the sampler on Aida these words have been recharted for you within the download.
Ann is suitable for needleworkers of all abilities and would make an ideal “starter” project for those wishing to explore samplers.
“So hand in hand they passed, the loveliest pair that ever since in love’s embraces met — Adam, the goodliest man of men since born his sons; the fairest of her daughters Eve.” ~ John Milton, Paradise Lost