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A sampler completed by a girl from the Queens Orphan School in Van Diemen’s Land (the island of Tasmania) in 1838 – £9200 at Tennants.

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The orphanage was established in 1833 to house orphans, neglected children and the children of convicts transported from Europe to the horrors of a penal colony.

It was described in a newspaper article at the time as ‘cold and comfortless’. The writer goes on to elaborate ‘…never did we see two hundred human beings, that exhibited so squalid an appearance, as did the majority of the Queen’s orphans’.

Belying such a bleak situation is the colourful and carefully stitched sampler, executed on a fine hemmed gauze, which contains a verse Lines on a Lady, extolling the virtues of meekness and mildness and wishes may she in paths of flowers stray.

The name Van Diemen’s Land was changed to Tasmania in 1856 in honour of the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman who was the first European to land on its shores in 1642. The sampler is evidently the same date as a basket made up of similar embroidered panels that was presented to Lady Jane Franklin, wife of the Lt Governor Sir John Franklin. It is now owned by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

The sampler carried an estimate of £600-800 at Tennants’ Costume, Accessories & Textiles sale in Leyburn on November 22. It met with multiple bidders before selling at £9200 (plus 24% buyer’s premium). Needlework was seen as a way of importing a work ethic and self-discipline.