Mary Hillier 1867 ~ printed booklet


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Mary’s sampler is offered to you in two different formats ~ as a printed booklet and as an instant PDF download. Details of the PDF download can be found HERE.

Mary was born on 3 September 1852 in Newton, Somerset, England. Her parents were Thomas Hillier, a labourer, and Elizabeth. On 18 August 1858 at 7 o’clock, Thomas, who was the foreman of a gang of workmen who were working on the Great Western Railway line between Bath and Twerton, met with an accident. As a train of empty carriages approached the workmen, in moving away from the line, Thomas slipped, and both of his feet went under the passing train and were “dreadfully crushed”. He was taken to hospital, and both his feet were amputated. A newspaper report noted that he was expected to recover. However, the accident proved to be fatal, and he died on 27 September. Within a year, Mary’s mother, died of pneumonia at the County Lunatic Asylum at Wells.

Mary and her younger sister Lucy were taken in by their aunt Sarah Gray. Sarah had four children of her own to care for, and her husband’s wages, as a labourer on the railway, would have been strained to feed a household of eight. Sarah delivered Mary into George Müller’s care on 12 July 1861. She was admitted into No. 1 House under orphan number 1057. A few months later in the October Lucy was admitted into the infant’s department at No. 1 House. In the 1800s there were very few orphanages in the country, and orphans tended to go to homes for foundlings or the workhouse, which was akin to slave labour. The two sisters were more fortunate than many. Not far from their home, George Müller, an Independent Minister, had founded an orphanage at Ashley Downs, Bristol. The sisters met the entry criteria, as only children who had been born in wedlock, were bereft of both parents through death and destitute were considered for admission.

Mary remained at the orphanage until October 2, 1868, when, at 16 years old, she was sent to work as a housemaid for the Reverend E E Jenkins at Clyde House, Brixton Rise, London. We know that Mary returned to the Clifton area of Bristol. Clifton is a beautiful suburb of Bristol, tucked away from the hubbub of the city.

On 31 July 1883 at 30 years of age, Mary married a widower, David Lewis, who was 73 years of age. In the 1881 census return David was a lodging-house keeper and in the 1891 census return was boarding with Mary at a lodging house at 21 St Paul’s Road (previously known as 21 Victoria Road), Clifton. He was living on his own means.

Probably due to his advanced age, David and Mary had no children together. When David died in the June of 1899, he left an estate valued at £9,759 3s 6d. Today this sum equates to £1,286,359. Widowhood emancipated Mary, and we expect that she spent her later years financially very comfortable. A far cry from her early years and the orphanage.

We find Mary still lodging at 21 St Paul’s Road in the 1901 census return. The house was sold on the death of the owner in 1908, and we cannot find Mary in the 1911 census, maybe she remarried, maybe she emigrated to Ryde, New South Wales, where her sister Lucy had settled.

Mary stitched her sampler with cross stitch over two strands of linen. The project has been rated as suitable for needleworkers of all levels of ability and can be stitched on Aida, Linaida, or linen.

Our grateful thanks go to Kathleen Born who lovingly stitched the model for Mary’s sampler. At the very core of Hands Across the Sea Samplers there is a team of needleworkers who are passionate about antique samplers and being able to share those samplers with you.

Thread Legend

Mary’s beautiful monochrome sampler has been reproduced with Soie 100.3 from Au Ver à Soie. We have provided conversions for Soie d’Alger and DMC. Estimated thread quantities for varying linen counts and the number of strands of thread used have been listed below.

Soie 100.3 1 strand 681 x 3

Soie d’Alger 46ct 1 Strand 2922 x 4

Soie d’Alger 40ct 1 Strand 2922 x 5

DMC 40ct 1 strand 321 x 4

Soie d’Alger 36ct 1 Strand 2922 x 5

DMC 36xt 2 Strands 321 x 8

Soie d’Alger 28ct 2 Strands 2922 x 13

DMC 28ct 2 Strands  321 x 10

Linen Sizes

The design area is 286 stitches (w) x 328 stitches (h). Our calculations have included a 3″ margin for finishing and framing. If working on an uneven linen such as 53/63ct, we would recommend that you orientate your linen so that the higher count is on the horizontal for this particular sampler.

The model was stitched on 45ct Legacy Linen in Foxtail Millet. For alternative counts we would suggest Legacy Linen Sycamore Seedpod in 53/63ct, Legacy Linen Corn Tassel in 37ct, and Legacy Linen Victoria Sponge Cake in 30ct.

28ct ~ Design: 20.43″ x 23.43″ Fabric: 26.43″ x 29.43″

30ct ~ Design: 19.07″ x 21.87″ Fabric: 25.07″ x 27.87″

32ct ~ Design: 17.88″ x 20.50″ Fabric: 23.88″ x 26.50″

36ct ~ Design: 15.89″ x 18.22″ Fabric: 21.89″ x 24.22″

40ct ~ Design: 14.30″ x 16.40″ Fabric: 20.30″ x 22.40″

46ct ~ Design: 12.43″ x 14.26″ Fabric: 18.43″ x 20.26″

56ct ~ Design: 15.46″ x 15.75″ Fabric: 21.46″ x 21.75″

63/53ct ~ Design: 13.75″ x 16.64″ Fabric: 19.75″ x 22.64″


Mary stitched her sampler with cross stitch over two strands of linen. The project can be stitched on Aida, Linaida, or linen.

Stitch Guide

Mary’s sampler is worked with cross stitch over two threads of linen and are suitable for needleworkers of all abilities.

Cross stitch ~ is made up of two stitches worked over two threads. You should make all your stitches cross in the same direction for a neat and uniform finish.

Foreword by Claudia Dutcher Kistler

There is nothing more exciting than finding documented similar school samplers.  I call that “putting like things together”.  George Müller’s orphanage in Bristol was an accredited school, and needlework was part of a girl’s education.  Proficient needlework skills would help a girl secure a position in domestic service.  We know that the girls stitched together and copied elements from each other’s samplers. Bristol orphan samplers are recognizable because they all share the same alphabets and motifs.  You don’t often see three orphan samplers as similar as these three.

Esther Anne Hague dated her sampler 1865.  Esther [b. 1852] was admitted to House 2 on 11 March 1858.  She was dismissed to her sister on 14 June 1868.  Esther went on to become a dressmaker like her sister. Esther liked working with needle and thread.

Emma Sandford dated her sampler 1867.  Emma [b. 1851] was admitted to House 1 on 21 March 1862.  She was dismissed from the orphanage on 22 Dec 1868.  She was placed as a kitchen maid.  That was a good choice because Emma was a terrible stitcher. Stitching a sampler was not fun for Emma.

Esther and Emma are in private collections and have been shared here with permission.

Mary Hillier dated her sampler 1867. Mary [b. 1852] was admitted to House 1 on 12 July 1861.  She was dismissed from the orphanage on 2 Oct 1868.  You can see from this leaflet how similar Mary’s sampler was to Esther and Emma’s samplers.

What do these three samplers and their makers have in common?

All three girls were close in age. Esther was actually the youngest, and she willingly stitched her sampler earlier than the other two girls.  All three girls likely knew each other and lived in the same House before being dismissed in 1868.

As you can see, these three samplers share the same format and many of the same design elements. Whether this format was decided by a teacher or by the girls sharing their samplers with each other, these samplers have unusually similar designs. Finding samplers so similar suggests these girls stitched together.  The possibility of Esther and Mary both encouraging Emma to finish her sampler is a good story.

Claudia Dutcher Kistler is a Bristol sampler collector and lecturer on Bristol orphan needlework. You can see more examples of Bristol orphan samplers at