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Jane Reeder Cole, Kirtling School


Front Reverse

Border sampler, dated 1852
T.7-1943 (view catalogue record)

Given by Miss Sarah Cole.

Wool, embroidered with coloured silk and cotton threads in cross-stitch. The top and bottom are rolled and stitched, some damage. A double blue line selvedge (the woven edge of the fabric that does not unravel) on both the sides.

Width: 12 1/2” (31. 7 cm)
Length: 16” (40.7 cm)

Sampler Analysis

The sampler has a repeating honeysuckle border pattern, and similar narrow geometric and floral repeat border patterns divide the sampler. There are 4 horizontal sections in total.

The top section includes the alphabet in Roman capitals and numbers from 1-14:


In the second part, a second alphabet appears below in cursive style, letters H and K look very similar, and Jane missed out letters I, U, W, Y and Z:


The large third section includes detached motifs and inscriptions which read:

Fear God and keep his commandments for
this is the whole duty of man Eccles. 12Ch

favour is deceitful
and beauty is vain
but a woman that
feareth the LORD
she shall be prais'd

The first inscription is from the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 12:13, and the second is from Proverbs 31: 29-30.

The fourth section includes more detached motifs of dogs, birds, coronets, floral sprigs and sprays, a peacock and a tree, as well as the maker’s name, school name and year within a rectangle:

Jane Reeder Cole
Kirtling School

Jane’s Story

In the 1891 census, Jane Reeder Cole is listed as being born c.1840 to John and Mary, making her roughly 12 years old when she finished her sampler and about 50 when the census was taken. Kirtling parish registers do not have a record of her baptism, but this is because she was born in Middlesex, London, whereas her sisters, Ann Cole (b. 1844) and Sarah (b. 1854) were both born in Kirtling. Her mother may have moved residence after the birth of her first child, or the family could have had a temporary home in London.

At the age of 30, Jane was unmarried and worked as a housemaid, along with three other servants, for the Scott family who lived at 102 Lancaster Gate, London. Twenty years later, after the death of John L. Scott, Jane continued serving his widow, Mary Scott, working as her lady’s maid at 17 Montague Square, Marylebone, London. As lady of the house, Scott needed a number of servants to help run her home, including a butler, footman, kitchen maid and cook. When the 1911 census was taken and Jane was 70, it records her as being an assistant housekeeper, living in 26 Portugal Street, Cambridge with her two sisters, all of whom were unmarried.

Kirtling School

The Parish of Kirtling lies 5 miles south east of Newmarket, and since 1723 there had been a parish school master who taught eight poor children thanks to the financial support of Francis North, Earl of Guilford (1704-1790). But after the Earl’s death in 1790 this stopped. Records show that a dame school existed in 1833 with 40 children attending. By 1846 the number had increased to 94. All these schools, however, were too early for Jane Reeder Cole.

Kirtling’s National School and master’s house opened in 1850, and this is the school that Jane Reeder Cole most likely attended. While not much information exists about the school master, mistress, curriculum and pupils, the Cambridgeshire County Record Office has bills relating to the building and contents of the school, including ink stands, desks, bookshelves, window blinds, drainage and fences. We know that the children read the National Society’s school books, as there is a payment entry of £10 0s 2d (approx. £614) to purchase them. Not much information exists regarding instruction in needlework.

A Family Tradition: A Sampler by Jane’s Mother

In addition to the sampler stitched by Jane Cole, the Fitzwilliam Museum is fortunate enough to own one made by her mother, Mary. This is dated 1826. Both were given in 1943 by Sarah Cole, who was Mary’s daughter and Jane’s younger sister. According to Sarah, Mary misspelt ‘Reader’, by substituting an ‘a’ rather than an ‘e’ in her surname.

Mary Reeder


Front Reverse

Border sampler, dated 1826
T.6-1943 (view catalogue record)

Given by Miss Sarah Cole.

Wool, embroidered with coloured silks in cross and satin stitches. The top and bottom are rolled and stitched, some damage. A double blue line selvedge on both the sides.

Width: 12 3/4” (32.4 cm)
Length: 15 1/4” (38.7 cm)

Sampler Analysis

The 1/4” border has stems and buds. The first four lines of the upper section include duplicate letters of the alphabet in upper and lower case, as well as numerals 1-10 and 1- 20:



Different border patterns separate the lines. The inscription in the middle section is flanked by flowers in vases:

Great God in mercy condeßcend
Thro life to be my Guardian friend
And when my spirit leaves its clay
To raise it to eternal day

The lower part of the sampler includes detached motifs, such as flowers in vases and baskets, birds, dogs and crowns. The maker’s name, age and date are contained within a decorative rectangle:

Mary Reader
Aged 12 Years 1826

Mary’s Story and Sampler

Mary was born c.1814 in Helions Bumpstead, a village in Essex. She married John Cole (b. 1815), a bricklayer from Suffolk, and in addition to three daughters they also had a son, John William (b. 1849). In the 1851 census, the Cole family lived together in Kirtling. At this time, Jane was about 10 years old and was recorded as a scholar, so too was younger sister Ann who was around 7 years at the time. Perhaps they both attended Kirtling National School, which opened in 1850. Twenty years later, husband and wife, now in their 50s, lived alone together at 64 Ridlands Lane, Surrey. The family seemed to have a connection with London, as this was also the area of Jane’s birthplace. One possibility might be that John and Mary lived in Middlesex when their eldest daughter was born, and then moved back to the Cambridge area and settled there while their children grew up.

Mary was also 12 years old when she completed her sampler, and both mother’s and daughter’s are particularly decorative and colourful. The format of both samplers is very similar, including almost identical dog motifs.

Mary’s dog motif              Jane’s dog motif


Both samplers had also been framed as there are tack marks on the edges. It seems likely that Jane was aware of the format, design and motifs used in her mother’s sampler when she made hers. Even though the inscription implies that it was made at school in Kirtling, the format strongly resembles her mother’s work. This may indicate that Jane used her mother’s as a model. Evidence does not exist to inform us of Mary’s schooling, so it is not known where she made her sampler. One possibility could be the dame school in Kirtling, which had about 40 pupils in 1833.