Available as a pdf download and as a printed booklet. Click HERE for the printed booklet.
Oscar stitched his sampler in 1904, when he was 12 years old whilst attending HM Greenwich School. Greenwich Hospital was founded by Royal Charter for the relief and support of seamen serving aboard the ships belonging to the Royal Navy who for reasons of age, wounds, or other disabilities were unable to maintain themselves. It also provided for the widows and the maintenance and education of the children of seamen that had been killed or disabled. Sailors often used their off-duty hours aboard ship to do handcrafts such as carving, knotting, and needlework. We believe that it was a tradition at the naval school for boys to cross stitch a sampler to send home to their parents. We know of the existence of other similar samplers.
Oscar Leonard James Topsfield was born on August 14, 1892 to William Henry Topsfield and his second wife Elizabeth Annie, née Taylor. The family resided at 11 Park Street, Southend-on-Sea, Essex. William had joined the navy in 1854 and served for twenty years. He was a Crimean hero serving in the Baltic on a score of ships before leaving the navy with the rank of Chief Petty Officer (a captain of the hold).
Oscar followed his father and joined the Royal Navy on July 6, 1910. His service number was J 9026. The first ship he served on was HMS Ganges II. He went on to serve on the Magnificent, Irresistible, Pembroke, Aeolus, Commonwealth, Antrim, Inflexible, Blake, Gibraltar, and Victory XI.
We are fortunate to have a copy of a photograph taken of Oscar and his wife Catherine (Kitty), née Viney, taken on November 8, 1919, their wedding day.
Oscar left the Navy on June 10, 1922. He and Kitty had two children, Jean and William. In a 1939 register, the family are living at 169 Hainault Avenue, Southend-on-Sea with Kitty’s father. Oscar is noted as a grocer’s cellarman. Oscar died on March 4, 1974 and Kitty eight years later in 1982. Their son William died in 2020, and we suspect that the sampler became available for sale when his estate was disbursed.
Many naval and merchant sailors in the 19th and 20th centuries embroidered pin cushions for their loved ones. The length of separation between sailors and their family was long, and this only increased during times of war. The pin cushions worked by sailors often featured the words “Think of me”. The sentiment was a particular favourite of the British Royal Navy in the 19th century.
In keeping with this naval tradition, we have designed two pin cushions based on Oscar’s message to his parents ~ When This You See and To You All. The charts for the pin cushions are included within the sampler’s booklet.
Today, through his needlework, when this we see, we remember Oscar Leonard James Topsfield, even though he is far away from thee.
Oscar’s sampler has been lovingly stitched by Melissa Gay. 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.
The PDF download includes a colour multi -age version of the sampler, a colour single-page version of the sampler and colour single-page charts for both pin cushions.