Tag Archives: Embroidered Letter

From Frayed to Letters from the Workhouse

Lauren Brumby, Curatorial Assistant at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse talks us through the installation of Lorina’s samplers in the exhibition ‘Letters from the Workhouse.’

First Dave and I pulled down the multicoloured image and installed these large black and white panels. This photo is of the elderly women’s ward at Thetford Workhouse around the same time that Lorina would have been at Great Yarmouth.

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Then we installed the three text panels, these are all about how rare the samplers are, what we know of Lorina’s life and what she tells us about living in the workhouse.

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We had prepared as much as we could, but the week in between Frayed closing and us reopening was crunch time. Once the case had been delivered we donned our paintbrushes and it was time to turn pink grey!

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Then on Friday the samplers arrived! Here is Debbie Phipps, Textile Conservator carefully unrolling them into the case.

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Me getting the label ‘just right!’

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Dave installing the lid to the case.

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One of the last jobs is to get the light levels right. They have to be low to protect the fabric.

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Ta da! All finished. We wanted Lorina to speak for herself through her samplers and hopefully we have achieved that.

Come and see ‘Letters from the Workhouse’ on at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse until Sunday 1st June.

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New Lorina Installed

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The new Lorina embroidered letter has just been installed into the gallery – come and have a look!  It’s the last three weeks of the exhibition, and your last opportunity to see all of the Frayed objects together.

Read the new letters here:

Transcription of Lorina Bulwer 2014 – smaller piece with figures

Transcription of Lorina Bulwer 2014

New Lorina Bulwer Acquisition

A remarkable embroidered letter created by Great Yarmouth resident Lorina Bulwer over a hundred years ago has turned up in the attic of a house in County Durham.  This extraordinary artefact has been purchased by Norfolk Museums Service through a generous grant from the Costume and Textile Association.  The sampler will go on display straight away for the final four weeks of the Frayed exhibition at Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth.

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The embroidered panels, the longest measuring over 2 metres in length, were left in the attic by previous occupants of the house and were a complete surprise to the new residents when they came out of their plastic wrappings.  The finder immediately put Lorina’s name into an internet search provider and was directed to the blog for the current Frayed: Textiles on the Edge exhibition which features two similar pieces by Lorina, created in the late 19th / early 20th century when she was resident in the lunatic ward of the Great Yarmouth workhouse.

Costume and Textiles Curator, Ruth Battersby-Tooke, takes up the story: “It’s the stuff of a curator’s dream! We always felt that there must be more of Lorina’s embroidered letters out there somewhere.  It is so clear that she found the process of stitching her thoughts therapeutic that she would have made many more in the 15 or so years that she spent in the Great Yarmouth Workhouse. We were ecstatic about the discovery and delighted that the finder wanted the two pieces to come into the collections of Norfolk Museums Service. Fortunately the Costume and Textile Association were extremely keen to give a grant to cover the costs of acquiring the pieces for the collection and we’re very grateful for their generous and prompt support.”

Joy Evitt, Chair of the Costume and Textile Association, adds “We are absolutely thrilled to be able to purchase this object for the museum. We can’t wait to see the samplers all together – they are amazing. This is a lovely way to celebrate the contributions the Costume and Textile Association have made to NMS over the past 25 years. Almost £100k has been raised for the improvement of the storage for collections and for new acquisitions.”

The Lorina Bulwer samplers are certainly one of the more unusual pieces in the Norwich Museum collections. Made over a century ago, these textile samplers take the form of very long, and often confusing, rants. With no punctuation, and entirely in upper case, each word is virtually spat out, and the angry tone is relentless throughout. Every word has been hand-stitched onto a patchwork of fabrics and provides a unique glimpse into the life of their maker.

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Born in 1838, Lorina never married and helped run a boarding house in Yarmouth until her mother died in 1893. It was probably shortly after this that she found herself one of over 500 residents in Yarmouth workhouse.  Here’s a flavour of the tone of her ‘letters’ which comes from the end of the first sampler to enter the NMS collections, in 2004: “THE PEOPLE ARE REAL ENGLISH TRAMPS HAWKERS SHOW PEOPLE ENGLISH NOT ONE BELONG TO ANY OF MY CLASS NOT ONE HERE HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH MY PARTY…”.

Lorina’s work has been a source of great fascination for some time, with its sense of a woman from the past speaking directly to us.  Many individuals, from historians to psychologists, and textile students to writers, have visited, studied or enquired about Lorina and her embroideries.  Lorina and her embroideries have been included in PhDs, a novel and mentioned on Radio 4. Most recently the original sampler from the collections was featured by the Antiques Roadshow on their trip to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in 2013, broadcast on 12 January 2014: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01pfdk7

NMS Adult Learning Officer, Ruth Burwood, was interviewed by Paul Atterbury who was enthralled by the story of Lorina and the creation of this amazing object.

In a separate development, and as a direct result of the exposure on Antiques Roadshow, a number of ledgers from the Great Yarmouth workhouse have also come to light.  It was previously thought that no documentation from the workhouse survived from this period due to a fire, so this is a very exciting discovery in itself.  The ledgers are from a slightly earlier period than Lorina and so don’t mention her by name, but they do mention some of the people who appear in her samplers, including a number of doctors.  They also provide a fascinating insight into daily life at the workhouse, such as details of diagnoses of patients in the lunatic ward and what inmates were allowed to wear.  The ledgers have been generously donated to Great Yarmouth museums and while they are not currently on display, they can be viewed on request.

It’s wonderful that, in classic Antiques Roadshow fashion, new work by this remarkable woman has come to light, along with documentation that will provide an important context for her life, as well as an insight into an important institution in the town.  With the addition of these new items to the collections we are gradually fitting more pieces of the puzzle together and making fresh discoveries about the family history that shed new light on this extraordinary survival.

The new pieces have just arrived and are being installed into the Frayed exhibition where the public will be able to see them from Saturday 8 February. Frayed runs until 2 March 2014 so there’s just under a month to see these remarkable artefacts side by side.

New Lorina with Steve Miller

 

 

 

Frayed in Print – The Quilter

An article by Carolyn Ferguson about the Brereton bed hangings and the Frayed exhibition is featured in the Winter 2013 issue of The Quilter. 

The Quilter is the membership magazine of The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles:  http://www.quiltersguild.org.uk/

For a preview, click here:  The Quilter

Stitch Like Lorina 2 – Lisa Little

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The morning group

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The afternoon group

At the beginning of November I held my first stitch workshop in the salt store at Time & Tide in response to the objects displayed in the Frayed exhibition. There were 16 busy stitchers from Cromer, Great Yarmouth and Norwich Castle Study Centre’s Costume & Textile department who came together to sew.  All attempting either their own prepared text or beginning with the alphabet in the style of Lorina Bulwer and to enjoy looking at the exhibition.  Some stitched song lyrics, others used proverbs or sayings but all developed their own style.

The public workshop last week saw a diverse assortment of text being used too, such as poems, personal memoirs and letters and quotes from some of the contemporary artists books whose work is in Frayed were also used. One participant experimented with automatic writing based upon the theme of friendship and stitched the largest quantity of words of anyone during the session!

We also had words stitched in rainbow colours, and text not only going horizontally but vertically too in an acrostic style.

My humble attempt during the session translated into random jumbles of letters of the alphabet and at the opposite end of the fabric the beginnings of a recipe for chocolate cake. I thought I would stitch another recipe as a Frayed Facebook follower messaged me and told me they had printed out the apple cake stitched recipe I had stitched earlier and hung it on her refrigerator and she had made the cake from it- and very tasty it was too, but she wasn’t able to share a picture of it as it was all eaten!

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‘Stitch Like Lorina’, Volunteers Workshop – Patricia Day, Learning Officer

Volunteers from Cromer, Norwich and Great Yarmouth Museums’ stitching groups met at Time and Tide for an exclusive Frayed workshop where they learnt how to Stitch like Lorina.

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After tea, coffee (and lots of chatter) the Stitchers were given a guided tour around the exhibition led by Ruth Battersby Tooke, who revealed the sad and inspiring stories behind many of the exhibits. The museum Stitchers were very impressed with the detail and intricacy of the designs and were intrigued by the messages in the Bulwer tapestry.

Lisa Little then invited the volunteers to ‘Stitch Like Lorina’ and delivered an excellent workshop where the Stitchers turned their own phrase or quote into a Bulwer-style tapestry.

Fortunately, for those involved, the messages sewn by the Stitchers were more coherent and less angry, although the passing of time, frustrations of life and men in general featured in several of their samplers!

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If you’d like to try stitching in the style of Lorina Bulwer, you can download Lisa’s guide to forming the letters here:  Stitch like Lorina

 

‘Overwhelmed and Inspired’ and ‘I Don’t Like Sewing’

My name’s George – I’m part of the Visitor Service Team at Time & Tide.  One of the most wonderful parts of my job is talking to visitors about their museum experience:  I love to hear how much they enjoy the building that everyone who works here has so much pride in. 

I must be honest – when I was told what the new exhibition would be, a switch in my head turned off.  Textiles have never interested me in a museum and I had never really thought about them.  As for them provoking an emotional reaction, I thought not (especially as I have been described as having the emotional range of a teaspoon).  However, there came a day during installation when I was asked to help hang what looked like a dirty sheet.  Debbie Phipps (textile conservator) and Alison Hall  (exhibitions coordinator) started talking about what I now know as The Newgate Quilt and yes it does look a little worn but its remarkably good for its 200 year history.  My interest was piqued and I began to go to the exhibition room every time a new piece was put lovingly in place and one evening when most people had left I read the Elizabeth Parker sampler and its stark reality of a terrible abuse left me quite moved.  It’s unusually quiet when you step into that particular gallery, apart from hushed whispers about sewing techniques. It almost makes me feel like I am intruding on visitors thoughts when I do my regular patrols.

Back in reception, visitors talk about the exhibition with wonderful words, which our curators and everyone behind the scenes don’t get to hear most of the time.  I have spoken with a lady whose relative was mentioned on the Lorina Bulwer Sampler and another lady whose parents were friends with John Craske and his wife.  Yet one of the most interesting conversations I had was with a gentleman who said ‘I don’t like sewing’ so I began to tell him about my own experience with the exhibition.  Still he was not moved, but then our conversation changed slightly and we were talking about social media and I mentioned that along with another colleague, I do the Facebook and Twitter for Great Yarmouth Museums and we started talking about those people who use social media as a soapbox to complain and moan.  Then it occurred to me that if you took those gripes and groans over a period of a few years, put them altogether and removed the spacing it could be a modern day Lorina letter!  I mentioned this to the gentleman who was then curious enough to go and read the embroidered letters!