News & Insights

A Suffolk Family Collection and 19th Century Sampler

14th April 2021.

The Costume, Accessories and Textiles Sale at Tennants Auctioneers on 7th May will include the Private Collection of a Suffolk Family. The collection comprises 26 lots that belonged to numerous ancestors in the vendor’s family, dating from the early 19th century to early 20th century. Many items belonged to a Mr Calvert, who lived in a timbered manor house and was affectionately known as ‘a wonderfully eccentric gentleman’. He never married but travelled to India and Europe, and extensively in Egypt with H. Rider Haggard, the celebrated novelist who wrote King Solomon’s Mines. Indeed, Rider Haggard’s name is written in the back of an 18th century style pink silk waistcoat in the collection. The vendor’s well-travelled family even reached Australia and China; their travels represented by textiles now up for auction.

Since the 1980s, the textiles have been stored in trunks in a barn on the vendor’s farm, each item wrapped carefully in tissue paper. Tennants Textile Specialist Sarah White says of the collection: ‘Each layer of wrapping I removed revealed another delight, a jigsaw piece in the puzzle of the family history. The vendor was determined to preserve these wonderful items for the future, and felt the best way was for them to find new owners at auction’.

Highlights of the collection include a 19th Century Wedding Costume made from silk brocade woven with lily of the valley, green silk trim and lace with matching brocade shoes. The costume bears a label for ‘Colley’ with a Royal Warrant and is offered with an estimate of £300-500 (plus buyer’s premium). A Late 19th Century Black Silk Brocade Jacket, woven with tulips and labelled ‘Harvey Nichols and Company Limited Knightsbridge’ (estimate: £150-200) is contrasted by a group of early 20th Century Domestic Service wear including starched white cotton aprons (estimate: £80-120) and an Early 20th Century Pink Velvet Eastern Robe with appliqued gold trims and gold thread embroidery (estimate: £120-180).

A further highlight of the sale is a very delicately embroidered 19th Century Sampler (estimate: £300-500). The sampler is worked in red thread on white background in the style of the Ashley Down Orphanage, Bristol. Tiny stitches form the alphabet and numbers and numerous detailed motifs, executed using the Bristol orphanage’s format for fonts and motifs including a Bible, cow, birds, and fleur de lys. The sampler was worked by a ‘Jane Ann’ and is dated 1871. She has worked three-digit numbers into the sampler fitted amongst the numerous details, which could be bed numbers of her fellow orphans or acknowledging the other girls for helping with her sampler or borrowing their patterns. Ashley Down House was an extraordinary institution. At a time when there were very few orphanages and the only alternative was the workhouse, George Müller, a Christian preacher, built a vast orphanage that would care for over 10,000 children in his lifetime. Sewing was a vital skill taught at Ashley Down, and the Bristol and District Teachers Association created the Needlework Scheme, a comprehensive education in the skills that would render the girls employable. Samplers were produced as examples of their abilities, to show potential employers. They followed a model sampler, with red cotton on linen, working the alphabet in different fonts at the top and personalising the bottom with motifs of their own.

The sale will include a wealth of fascinating lots, from two Early 19th Century Caracos (estimate: £200-300 each), an informal French style of jacket with non-pleated backs, a 1940s Embroidered Indian Long Coat (£300-500), and a Late 19th Century Decorative Signature Quilt (estimate: £300-500). Also on offer in the sale is a good range of 20th century ladies and gents costume and accessories, and modern luxury leather accessories by the likes of Gucci, Chanel and Hermès.


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