Martha Stapleton completed this exquisite needlework sampler in 1852 while at the British Girls' School in Hitchin, when she was only 12 years old.
The 1852 map sampler created by Martha Eaynor Stapleton as a 12-year old pupil demonstrating her wonderful needlework skills, and would have taken pride of place on a Victorian wall. Martha’s sampler was created while she was at Hitchin British Girls’ School. Samplers were designed to illustrate girls’ needlework skills to school examiners and future employers, and to offer for sale.
Born in 1840 in Hitchin, Martha spent most of her youth living on Nightingale Road, Hitchin. The school was initially housed in the Old Malthouse, until it was badly damaged in a fire that swept the street in 1845. The girls’ and infants’ schools were later rebuilt in 1857. The family were extremely familiar with the local area: in the 1860s, her father George worked nearby at the Sun Hotel, and Martha married Alfred Lofts, a grocer, on 26th December 1868 in St Mary’s Church, Hitchin.
Alfred’s father was a schoolmaster at the British School down the road in Baldock. They had four children together, before Alfred died at the age of 51. Martha continued living at Nightingale Road into the 1890s, working as a newsagent and school mistress. She later moved to Leicester, establishing herself as an independent clothier dealer, with her children becoming clothiers and hairdressers. Martha died in 1907, leaving behind an established family and beautiful needlework samplers, including this magnificent map sampler.
Her sampler, and many other examples, may be seen in our current exhibition, First Threads: preparing girls for life? which runs until Dec 2019.