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Hannah Bowtell, Haverhill School


Front Reverse

Bordered sampler, dated 1812
T.12-1952 (view catalogue record)

Bequeathed by Lady St John Hope.

Wool, embroidered with polychrome silks in cross, Florentine and counted satin stitch. All edges are bound with linen tape.

Width: 12 5/8” (32.2 cm)
Length: 11 1/2” (29.2 cm)

Sampler Analysis

The sampler border comprises a small geometric repeat pattern enclosing octagons and hearts. At the top there is a school name within a lozenge, ‘HAVERHILL SCHOOL’, and an inscription:

Then will I set my Heart to find
Inward Adornings of the Mind
Knowledge and Virtue Truth and Grace
These are the Robes of richest Dress
No more shall Worms with me compare
This is the Raiment Angels wear

This comes from verses 5 and 6 by hymn writer and theologian Dr Isaac Watts’ (1674-1748) song ‘Against Pride in Clothes’, from his Divine and Moral Songs for Children (c. 1715).

Other motifs on the sampler include floral sprigs and sprays, two small birds, a basket of fruit, two crowns, a vase of flowers, with a name and date at the bottom:

Hannah 1812 Bowtell

Hannah’s Story

Hannah was 12 years old when she made this sampler. She was christened on 1 June 1800 in Sturmer, about 1 mile from Haverhill, and her parents were David and Elizabeth Bowtell.

Schooling in Haverhill

The town of Haverhill is situated about 14 miles south east of Cambridge, and there were two schools that Hannah may have attended in 1812. The first was a young ladies’ boarding school. And the second was Haverhill Jubilee School, which opened in 1809, to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of King George III (1760-1820).

In his article on education in early 19th-century Haverhill, Michael Horne found a boarding school advertised in the Bury Post in 1804. A Miss Jackson intended to open a school on Wednesday 25 January of that year to instruct young ladies in ‘useful and ornamental’ education, particularly focussing on the girls’ health and morals, for 18 guineas per year. Miss Jackson ran the school for five years with Mr Jackson, presumably her father, in charge of the finances. The annual fee increased to 20 guineas in 1806, and in 1809 Jackson handed over the responsibility of educating the girls to Miss Middleton and Miss Alderson, but Alderson left soon after joining the school, leaving Middleton as the principal mistress. The majority of girls in the area would have come from labouring and artisan families. The amount required for a year’s education at this boarding school would therefore have been a significant financial burden on a family’s income. In 1815, Middleton advertised that she was selling up. From sales records we know that there were two full bedsteads, beds for two women, sixteen featherbeds, bureaus, carpets, linen, a relatively new piano forte, and cooking range complete with stewing stove.