Saturday, 17 November 2012

Another Church

About twelve years ago I organised an exhibition of Welsh Samplers at Brecon Museum. As far as I am aware it was the first time that samplers from several Welsh museums, together with those from private collections had been brought together.  Unfortunately for lots of reasons, mainly financial, there is no catalogue, but they all remain in my memory and I did take photographs many of which will no doubt appear on this blog sooner or later.
My earlier post about Churches on Welsh samplers brought this sampler to mind -

Again I must apologise for the image.  I didn't take the picture but doubt if I could have done better because old glass is extremely reflective making photographing a sampler in it's frame extremely difficult.  However, and I hope you agree, I would rather have an imperfect picture than no picture!  I am interested in the content of a sampler and if it is good I want to record it and will settle for less than perfect.

This picture was sent to me by someone who had visited the exhibition and who thought I might be interested in his family sampler and I was!  It was worked in 1900 by Angharad Llewellyn and the Church is said to be Ystradfellte Church where the family worshipped. Now I am usually sceptical of such claims because very often the image on the sampler is nothing like the original but in this case it may be true?

St Mary's Church, Ystradfellte The Church building dates from the 16th Century but some parts are possibly from an earlier period.

I think this sampler is wonderful and it is also quite unusual for a few reasons.  "Angharad" is a very Welsh name and Welsh girl's names are rarely found on Welsh samplers.  Unlike now, when speaking Welsh is greatly encouraged, the teaching heavily susidised and Welsh names extremely fashionable, it used to be actively discouraged and children were given English names even if Welsh was their first language. The explanation maybe that 1900 was late in the era of sampler making, though in Wales it did go on until the first World War, long after it was fashionable elsewhere.  Which meant that the campaign against using Welsh had mellowed somewhat, because the language certainly had begun to appear on samplers towards the end of the 19th century.

The other thing that makes it a bit unusual to a sampler buff like me, is that it's format is a bit Scottish looking with its defined border.  But then it is unwise to speculate, sampler formats are extremely diverse making any theory in danger of being overturned.  There is no doubt that this sampler is Welsh and it is quite possible that there are more like it somewhere because very few, if any, were original designs, there was usually a school format that everyone followed. Unlike today, being orginal wasn't encouraged!



  1. I am so excited to find your blog. I adore samplers and being Welsh, what more can I say.

    Coincidentally I have just ordered a book on Welsh Samplers through Amazon. Samplers: From the Welsh Folk Museum Collection.

  2. The book you mention is one of the few on the subject and it concentrates on the collection at the museum some of which are not Welsh. It doesn't really give any in depth knowledge which is why I have started this blog.

    Thank you so much for your interest and keep tuned in!