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Mary Ann Tipper, Bristol Orphan House


Front Reverse

Marking sampler, 1868
T.11-1952. (view catalogue record)

Bequeathed by Lady St John Hope.

Cotton, embroidered with red cotton thread depicting alphabets, numerals, a verse and an inscription in cross stitch and four-sided cross stitch. All the edges are hemmed.

Width: 11 1/4” (28.6 cm)
Length: 14 3/4” (37.5 cm)

Sampler Analysis

At the top of the sampler are 14 lines of alphabets and numerals. Lines 1-8 are upper case letters, including elaborated Roman script, upright and Gothic cursive. Lines 9-14 include miniscules, numerals and initials. To the left and right of the bible are a crown and a lion motif, with the remainder of the band filled by two repeat patterns. Just above the bible are paired initials. Band patterns also feature to the left and right of the verse inscription:

Jesus, permit thy gracious name to stand
As the first efforts of an infant's hand,
And, while her fingers on the canvas move
Engage her tender thoughts to seek thy love,
With thy dear children let her have a part,
And write thy name thyself, upon her heart.

Below that is a band of large stars. Beneath that band are three groups of varied repeat patterns. The lower central part of the sampler includes the maker’s name and location:

M A Tipper
New Orphan House
North Wing
Ashley Down
1868 (The tail of the ‘6’ is missing)

The final line includes corner patterns and a crucifix.

Mary’s Story

Mary Ann was born on 16 September 1852, the daughter of post boy, Edward, and Jane Tipper in Castle Street, Cirencester. Her birth was registered in the parish records over a month later by her mother on 28 October. She had three older brothers, George, Edward and Henry, and one older sister, Elizabeth. Tragedy soon struck the Tipper family as Edward senior died from acute bronchitis in 1855 when Mary was 3. Seven years later death claimed Jane in the form of apoplexy (internal bleeding). With no parents or willing guardians to look after her, Mary was presented to the care and trust of George Müller (1805-1898) and his orphanages in Bristol. Her siblings all lived and worked in Cirencester. Edward, who delivered Mary Ann to the Bristol Orphan House, was a druggist; George, a shoemaker; Elizabeth, a servant; and Henry, a labourer. Mary Tipper entered the orphanage on 20 January 1863. She was orphan number 1395 to enter the institution and until 1871, lived in house No. 3, Ashley Down.

Mary Ann Tipper’s Admittance Records. Copyright, and reproduced by permission, of the George Müller Charitable Trust, Bristol.

At the age of 18, Mary Ann left on 23 May 1871 and was sent to a Mrs Peters to work as her housemaid in Croydon. After this entry in the orphanage’s records, Mary Ann Tipper disappears from the historical record and no more information about her has yet come to light.

Needlework at the Bristol Orphan House

The Bristol and District Teachers’ Association produced a needlework scheme that was used by the Ashley Down girls, shedding light onto needlework instruction at the orphan houses. The teaching was divided into eight ‘standards’, according to the age and ability of the scholar. The first is for infants of 5 years who are below ‘standard I’. They first had to learn ‘Needle drill', 'Position drill’ and ‘Hemming stitch’, progressing to knitting 12 lines of 12 loops.

The girls were taught to sew and knit, and they also made accessories such as holders for stamps, pin cushions, needle cases, purses, bags and bookmarks; ideal training for domestic service. Many samplers from the Bristol Orphan Houses still exist and they all have a similar format, indicating that the teachers had a model version which the girls copied from, similar to the examples from St Clement Danes School. Once again the samplers are not completely identical which suggests that the girls had some choice in what to include on their samplers.

Margaret Churchill’s sampler.
New Orphan House No. 3
South Wing.
Ashley Down.

History of the Bristol Orphan Houses

‘The great object of the institution, in receiving so many hundreds of destitute children, fit them for future life- to educate and train their youthful minds for time and for eternity....’
Quoted in W. Elfe Taylor, The Bristol Orphan Houses (London: Morgan and Scott, 1871).

The Five Bristol Orphan Houses, c. 1905. Image taken from Centenary Memorial 1805-1905
(Bristol: J. Wright and Co., 1905)
Copyright, and reproduced by permission, of the Bristol Central Library.

George Müller’s five orphan houses were designed to accommodate boys and girls born in wedlock who had lost both parents through death, to train the boys for a trade and the girls for domestic services. Children could enter the orphanages as babies. Girls could stay until they were 17 or 18, but boys were only permitted to stay until they reached 14 or 15 years old.

Infant Child, c. 1905. Image taken from Centenary Memorial 1805-1905
(Bristol: J. Wright and Co., 1905)
Copyright, and reproduced by permission, of the Bristol Central Library.

Here the girls would receive instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar, geography, history, singing, Swedish drill, needlework and other household work. The boys learnt the same subjects as the girls, including learning how to knit their own socks, but they would undertake more strenuous activities such as garden work. Müller was criticised for giving the children a varied education of a high standard, which was considered to be above their station. But he ignored these remarks and continued to give the children a diverse and thorough education to develop their bodies, minds and souls. Both sexes received daily religious instruction in the morning and afternoon, as well as going to Bethesda chapel where George Müller ministered. When the children left school they kept their own copy of the Bible. The day usually began at 6am and ended between 8pm and 9pm for the older children, and 7pm for the younger children.

Boys at Work in the Garden, c. 1905. Image taken from Centenary Memorial 1805-1905
(Bristol: J. Wright and Co., 1905)
Copyright, and reproduced by permission, of the Bristol Central Library.

The children were not always protected from diseases, as illnesses such as smallpox and tuberculosis killed several children each year. Girls would often share a bed, and a dormitory could sleep over 100 children.

For some children the orphanages provided a salvation. Former orphans often wrote letters to George Müller while they were in service, bestowing their overwhelming thanks to him and the institution:

April 24 1856

DEAR AND RESPECTED SIR, I am happy to tell you that my place is one that suits me very nicely. I have not any more work than I can comfortably get through with. I am very comfortable, and my master and mistress are extremely kind... I have, dear sir, to return you many grateful thanks for this my place, and also for the interest you took in me whilst under your care... I cannot by letter or words express half the gratitude I feel for this your kindness. I can always look back with pleasure that I ever went to the Orphan House....

Extract from W. Elfe Taylor, The Bristol Orphan Houses (London: Morgan and Scott, 1871).

The opening of the five orphan houses occurred over a period between 1849 and 1870: each house accommodated around 400 children. The building and running of the orphanages required a substantial amount of money and a large body of staff to teach and care for the children. By the time the fifth orphan house had been built there were 112 members of staff in total. Müller did not request money from individuals or organisations, as he preferred to rely on the power of prayer and his belief that God would provide for them. Donation upon donation flooded into the schools, with each school costing between £10, 000- £35, 000 (approx. £590, 000- £2 million today) to build. By the time of his death Müller had received over £1, 500, 000 (approx. £75-80 million) in donations for his orphanage project.

George Müller (1805-1898)

George Müller, c.1860. Image taken from Centenary Memorial 1805-1905
(Bristol: J. Wright and Co., 1905)
Copyright, and reproduced by permission, of the Bristol Central Library.

In his lifetime, Müller cared for over 10,000 orphans, providing a high standard of education, accommodation, food and shelter in the five houses. He was born in the village of Kroppenstaedt in Prussia in 1805 to a tax collector father who wanted Müller to enter the ministry. Müller spent his youth thieving, gambling and drinking, and he ended up in prison for debts. At the age of 20, after a powerful conversion experience in church, he decided to turn his life around and dedicate it to God.

In 1829, he came to England, settling in Teignmouth, Devon, and he befriended Scotsman Henry Craik. Together they embarked on numerous religious and educational projects, and when Craik moved to Bristol, Müller believed that he had to move there too. In 1832, he and his wife left Devon for Bristol. By this time, Müller was an active preacher, noted for his dynamic and forthright manner. In 1834, Müller and Craik founded The Scriptural Knowledge Institution (SKI), an organisation that assisted Sunday, Day and Adult schools in teaching the scriptures to poor and underprivileged people, as well as supplying aid to Missionaries and Missionary Schools. Müller was adamant that no request for subscription or appeals for financial assistance would be made, believing that prayer alone would provide the money required to set up the schools.

It was around this time that Müller started his work with orphans, and he and his wife opened up their home to 30 girls on 6 Wilson Street in 1836. Mr and Mrs Müller moved to 14 Wilson Street. In nine years, the Müllers’ rented and opened three other houses, as well as acquiring ground for a play area, in Wilson Street to accommodate orphaned boys and girls. By 1845, however, neighbours started complaining about the inconvenient number of children in the area and the noise levels coming from the playground. Müller prayed for guidance. Influenced by the large orphan houses in Germany, Müller sought to build a similar orphanage to accommodate 300 children in Bristol, but he needed land and money, at least £10,000. Donation after donation came into Müller’s hands and the availability of a 7-acre site in Ashley Down seemed the ideal location. The first orphan house on Ashley Down opened in 1849. By the time the fifth house had been completed in 1870, thousands of children had been taken off the streets and placed in the care and protection of the Müller orphanages.