Wednesday, 8 March 2017
EARLY 19th CENTURY CHESHIRE SAMPLER
We're very grateful to Sammi Hatton who, quite a while ago now, sent us this photograph of a rare piece of early 19th century needlework.
'I thought this might be of interest. I came across it in the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh.
It's some needlework from the early 19th Century - apparently used as a way of teaching geography to children. I was quite excited when I spotted it!'
A great find, of course, and one which shows Cheshire in the days when the Wirral was part of the county and we had at least a short stretch of coastline stretching as far as New Brighton.
We think the correct term for this type of work is a 'sampler' and it will have served the dual purposes of, as Sammi says, teaching children about the geography of the county, but also of helping them to practise their sewing skills.
It's obviously only a small item and whoever made it has shown great skill in representing even a small county like ours in such detail using only needle and thread.
Of course, this being the Middlewich Diary, we have managed to find a few mysteries and reasons for conjecture even in this small item.
Everything to the north of us is represented, quite tersely, by the word 'Manchester'.
To the left, the Wirral Peninsula, with the Mersey on one side, and the Dee on the other is indicated by Woodside, a name still current today for one of the ferry stations used by Mersey Ferries which ply between Liverpool and Birkenhead.
Inside the representation of Cheshire itself, only the places deemed important at that time are shown.
Naturally Middlewich comes first, albeit somewhat away from its true geographical position, with the county town of Chester a close second (representing in visual form that oft-repeated assertion that, in its heyday, Middlewich was 'second only in importance to the County Town of Chester' - an indication of just how vital the salt industry, and the money it brought in to both county and central governments, was).
Quite possibly Middlewich only gets first billing because of the shortage of space, the name being longer than that of Chester.
To the right of Chester we see Acton. And, as is our wont here at the Middlewich Diary, we immediately wonder which 'Acton' we are talking about.
Is it the Acton which lies due west of Nantwich?
Or is it the village now known as Acton Bridge on the River Weaver near Northwich, which was originally also 'Acton' but had the word 'Bridge' added to save confusion with the Nantwich Acton?
Who can say?
Below Acton is what appears to be Chad - or is it Ched? Can anyone shed any light on this? Is there, perhaps, some connection with St Chad's in Winsford?
And below Chester is another mystery name. Honley? Henley? Certainly not Hanley which is miles away to the south in Stoke-on-Trent.
Malpas just sneaks in at the bottom of the map, even though half of its name has, for reasons of space, ended up in Flintshire.
Update: Andrew Fielding, a member of Paul Hurley's Northwich & Mid-Cheshire Through Time group, suggests we might be looking for 'Malpas St Chad' and 'Handley' for 'Henley', also in the rural Deanery of Malpas. See also the comments below, which we suspect may also be from Andrew, making the interesting point that
the Parish of Malpas was, at one time, partly in Cheshire and partly in Flintshire, making the placing of the name more accurate than we thought.
Perhaps whoever made this sampler was from the Malpas area, or at least went to school there? Or was the pupil in question from Middlewich, making this the real reason why our town is given such prominence?
To the left of the map is the County of Flint with what seems to say Mole, which we're thinking is probably Mold and below that Holt near Wrexham.
Shropshire just creeps in at the very bottom and then, to the right, is Derbyshire with its county town and Ashburn or Ashbourne.
All in all, a fascinating piece of history. Many thanks to Sammi for sharing it with us.
EDINBURGH MUSEUMS: MUSEUM OF CHILDHOOD