Mary Derow, St Clement Danes School
Band sampler, dated 1723
T.124-1928 (view catalogue record)
Bequeathed by Dr J. W. L. Glaisher.
Linen, embroidered with polychrome silks in cross, double running, satin and Algerian eye stitch with filling stitches. Three edges are hemmed and there is a selvedge (the woven edge of the fabric that does not unravel) at the bottom.
Width: 9 2/16” (23 cm)
Length: 18 2/16” (46 cm)
The sampler is worked in 21 horizontal bands of repeat border patterns, with ‘boxers’, coronets, an alphabet, numerals and inscriptions.
Bands 1-4 include an alphabet, numerals 1-18, and inscription:
AaBCDEFGHIKLMNOPQRSTVWXYZ MARY DEROW OF
THE CHARITY SCHOOL OF ST CLEMENTS DANES AGED
TEN YEARS BEGVN THIS SAMPLEER AVGVST THE
TWENTY NINTH ANNO DOM 1723 123456789101112131415161718
Bands 5, 10, 11, 13, 17, 21 are repeat border patterns;
Bands 6-9, 14-16, 19-20 include inscriptions:
HE THAT GIVETH TO THE
POOR LENDETH TO THE
LORD AND HIS REWARD
WILL BE IN HEAVEN
BE NOT WISE IN THEN OWN EYES
FEAR THE LORD AND DEPART FROM EVIL
A GOOD NAME IS BETTER THAN
Inscriptions come from Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 3:7 and Ecclesiastes 7:1, respectively.
Band 5 includes ‘boxers’;
Band 10 includes crowns;
Band 12 has an anchor, the symbol of the St Clement Danes School. To the left and right of the anchor are swans, trees and birds;
Band 18 has two figures possibly of the master and mistress of the school, or of a boy and girl in uniform. They stand either side of a tree in a pot with two birds and are flanked by cut bushes in pots, and the spaces above are filled by lozenges.
Mary Derow (b.1713) was admitted to St Clement Danes School in Drury Lane, Covent Garden, Long Acre in 1722 aged 9, and she left in 1725 aged 12. She made her sampler aged 10 in 1723. Little information exists about Mary Derow, so it is unclear if she were an orphan, or if her parents survived but could not afford to bring her up. Either way, she must have been in genuinely difficult circumstances to have been admitted into St Clements.
Another 39 girls are listed alongside Mary Derow in the school’s minute book for these years, including Mary Window who produced a near identical sampler to Derow in the same year (see Peter Maplestone, St Clement Danes School, fig. 9, p. 22) now kept in a private collection in the UK. The earliest known sampler from St Clements was made by Elizabeth Clements in 1712, illustrated on page 74 of the book Samplers by Rebecca Scott.
Both Marys received instructions from mistresses Mrs Amey Parsons, who left around 1723; Mrs Armstrong replaced Parsons that year. The women were likely to be widows of the parish. Interestingly, two Mrs Parsons, no doubt relatives, taught at the school. The first was mistress for eight years from 1710. After her death in 1718, the other Mrs Parsons, who taught Mary, acted as mistress until 1723. The first Mrs Parsons must have possessed fine needlework skills, probably providing a model sampler for all the girls, both current and future, to copy from. This would explain why all three examples are very similar. Mary Window’s sampler, however, does not include the text from Ecclesiastes, suggesting that the girls had some choice in what they embroidered on their sampler.
Each year the children would show their work to the school Trustees. This would be an occasion for the girls to present their samplers, which might be sold to benefit both pupil and the school.
The needlework skills Mary Derow learned at school would prepare her for future employment. She may have become a household servant who could mark and mend household and personal linen. After 1725, however, her name disappears from the school’s minute book and so far no other trace of her can be found.
History of St Clement Danes
The school for girls opened on 9 July 1702 over 18 months after the foundation of the boys’ school on 13 January 1701.
St Clement Danes was one of 69 schools set up by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in the parishes of London and its suburbs. To gain access to an education at St Clements required nomination by a subscriber. The children had to belong to the Church of England and proof of their baptism had to be presented to the Trustees.
The children were provided with clothes, shoes and caps at school, and the uniforms were dyed blue, as Mary illustrated on her sampler. The children were also given quills and ink pots for writing.
Boys were instructed in reading, writing, mathematics and singing, and the girls in reading, sewing, knitting and singing. The children were taught singing in order to participate in the charity sermons held twice a year. The education was strongly religious, and the children were given their own bible, which they would take with them when they left school. They were also provided with a copy of The Whole Duty of Man, a prescriptive text to reinforce appropriate behaviour and conduct in their future life.
Teachers’ remuneration included lodging at the school
Mistresses received a payment of £25, about £2, 000 today, for a year’s work.
The masters, teaching the boys, received £40, around £3, 300.
Mr Colvile, a singing master, received yearly salary of £2, around £169, 50.