Tag Archives: Time & Tide museum

Frayed Shortlisted for M+H Award

We’ve received the exciting news this morning that Frayed: Textiles on the Edge has been shortlisted for a Museums+Heritage Award in the Temporary and Touring Exhibition category.

To see who we’re up against for Best Exhibition, have a look at the M+H website to view the full line-up of shortlisted projects:  M+H Award Shortlists

We’ll let you know how we get on after the awards ceremony on 14 May…


New Lorina Installed


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.

New Lorina

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’, 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.


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!  

Let’s Get This Show on the Road! Ruth Battersby Tooke, Curator


Ruth Battersby Tooke, Curator (left), and Lynn Tye, Museum Trainee, get the Brereton Bed Hangings ready to install.  Photograph, Liz Elmore.

As the objects arrive and are meticulously placed in the gallery I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how we got to this point, to set the scene before we open in just two weeks time. My name is Ruth Battersby Tooke and I am the curator of ‘Frayed: Textiles on the Edge’. The exhibition was conceived at the end of 2012 in response to the exciting news that the ‘other’ Lorina Bulwer letter, that we had seen pictures of when it was auctioned in the mid 2000’s was in the Thackray Museum, Leeds. I had a telephone call from the Curator, Lauren Ryall-Stockton asking me if I knew anything about Lorina as she had searched for the name and found the ‘Hidden Histories’ report. Exciting events like this are few and far between in the museum world and I dashed out of my office and across to the Bridewell Museum to find Ruth Burwood and share the news – cue much geeky air punching as the realisation that the Lorina letter was in a public museum collection and not in private hands which meant that all of the researchers that we had worked with  would have access to the object, a transcript and goodness me, we could also loan it and put it on display….

 So the work of developing an exhibition around these two extraordinary objects began. It was Jo O’Donoghue, Curator at Great Yarmouth and her enthusiasm and vision that encouraged a broader approach, one that set the context of textiles and Mental Health. From this point I began working with the strengths of the Norwich Costume and Textile collections, the way in which we have collected people’s stories as well as the objects and amongst those amazing stories were three other textiles that had relevance to the idea of making textiles as a therapeutic act. Not only an occupational therapy, a meaningful and structured way of busying the hands to still the mind, but also a powerful way to communicate, a creative and expressive way to release an inner voice.

 So by displaying the Brereton Bed-hangings, John Craske’s ‘Evacuation of Dunkirk’ woolwork picture and a patchwork quilt made by Newgate prisoners under Elizabeth Fry’s direction we had powerful themes which put these textile objects in the context of therapy but also each creation was still very much referring to individuals and their often complex experiences.

 More on all of these fascinating objects in future blog posts…

 The next key piece of the puzzle was the Elizabeth Parker sampler from the V&A. This potent object is often mentioned as a source of inspiration for contemporary textile artists and has extraordinary resonance as a testimony, reading almost like a tortured diary entry, the words have such a power to speak directly to the reader although it was written nearly 200 years ago. Enter Sue Prichard, Curator of Contemporary Textiles at the V&A and creator of the hugely successful ‘Quilts 1700-2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories’ exhibition at the V&A. Sue had been to visit us in Norwich to view the Lorina Bulwer embroidered letter and was hugely supportive of our exhibition and helped to secure the loan of the Elizabeth Parker sampler in order to be able to unite all of these immensely important objects together in one show.

 I work with other curators in the Eastern Region who have Costume and Textile collections, we deliver training events as part of the SHARE scheme and meet up regularly to talk about our work. At one of these meetings I outlined the project and immediately Clare Hunt of Southend Museums mentioned an Occupational Therapy kit donated recently to them. We were delighted to be able to borrow this for the exhibition as it provides a valuable part of the story, from the early history of Occupational Therapy as a medical discipline at the end of the First World War to these ready made kits being distributed to ex-service personnel at the end of the Second World War shows so clearly how the solace of stitch has clear benefits to those who need it in difficult times.

 Next time, more information on the stories behind the objects on display and we will introduce the contemporary artist’s whose work adds a whole new dimension to the exhibition.