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c. 1845

Hannah Dyer (1822 - 1906)

Textile (linin, wool, silk)

22.2 x 24.4 cm

Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program



Hannah Dyer gave her sampler to Emily Tilley, the second daughter of Thomas and Eliza Sophia Tilley, to whom she was an assigned convict servant. Emily passed it onto her eldest daughter Emily Stops. It then passed from her to her brother William Joshua Tilley Stops, who gave the sampler to his youngest daughter, Catherine.  It then passed to her daughter and thence to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in 2012.


Hannah, the fourth child of William and Martha Dyer, was baptised at St John’s church, Hackney on 18 May 1823. Her father was a weaver in difficult times and she is unlikely to have come from a wealthy home. Her convict record states that she was twenty years old when convicted and her Female Convict Indent gives her occupation as ‘house and nurse maid’. Hannah was sentenced to ten years transportation for stealing a considerable quantity of money and clothes at London’s Central Criminal Court (the ‘Old Bailey’) in 1842. She arrived in Hobart Town on the fourth sailing of the convict transport Royal Admiral in January 1843 and was recorded as single, five foot three and one quarter inches tall, ‘round’ faced with a ‘fresh’ complexion and dark brown hair.

Shortly after arriving, Hannah was assigned to work as a servant for Thomas and Eliza Sophia Tilley. Thomas Tilley and Eliza Sophia Witton had met on the ship, Rubicon on their way out to the colony and had arrived on 18 July 1832. They were married on 19 October 1833. Thomas Tilley came from a metal working dynasty and initially worked as an instrument maker for a Mr Morrison, in Elizabeth Street. However, on 6 September 1833 he advertised a partnership with a Mr Harris, brass founder, of Macquarie Street, Hobart in the Hobart Town Courier. Their foundry and the Tilley’s family home were located at the intersection of Macquarie and Harrington streets. The Tilleys generally had between four and five assigned servants, mainly men working in the foundry; Hannah seems to have been their only female servant, performing her familiar pre-transportation duties as house and nursemaid. Eliza Sophia Tilley gave birth to eight children.
Hannah Dyer was probably assigned to the Tilleys very shortly after her arrival in September 1842. It is said that she was initially unwilling to leave the house, because she was embarrassed by her grey convict clothes and that once supplied with cheap cotton print dresses by the Tilleys she was able to move freely about the town.
Hannah was “returned” to the Crown a little over a year later on 5 January, 1844, for being pregnant. In Hobart, newly arrived, misbehaving, incapacitated and pregnant female convicts were sent to the Cascades Female Factory in South Hobart. Intended to improve the inmates through hard labour the factory was an unhealthy place, located in a cold and damp valley.  Children remained with their mothers until they were weaned at six months, or later nine months in an attempt to reduce infant mortality. An absence of records for christening or for admission to the Orphanage suggests that Hannah’s first child did not live long.
Hannah was back in service with the Tilleys by August 1845 when she was again returned to the Government, this time for being ten days absent without leave, on the 11th. The register of births states that she gave birth to a girl, Elizabeth on 1 April 1846, a lack of subsequent records indicated that Hannah’s second child did not survive long. While she did not return to service with the Tilleys, Hannah’s marriage in 1847 to John Fogo, one of the Tilley’s assigned servants suggests an ongoing association. Eliza Sophia Tilley died of tuberculosis in March 1846, when her eldest child was only twelve years old. Thomas died six years later on 3 January 1852 and it is said that Hannah Dyer looked after the Tilley children while nursing him on his deathbed.
The family account suggest that, as Anglicans, the Tilleys were of a ‘practical’ persuasion and that Eliza Sophia may have seen it as a duty to educate and ’improve’ Hannah by teaching her to write and sew. This sampler, which was worked alongside the two eldest of the Tilley girls, may have been the result of Eliza Sophia’s efforts to improve Hannah’s literacy and needlework. This must have been between 1842 and 1845; Mary Anne and Emily would have been between six and eleven years old. Hannah’s age may account for her use of a snatch of popular song, rather than the more sentimental and improving verse often found on samplers of this period. The embroidered lines ‘From memorys page the hand of death  /  alone thy name shall blot  /  forget forsake me if thou wilt  /  thou shallt never be forgot’ are taken from the song ‘Oh! Am I then remembered still?’ published in England in 1828. Though sentimental, the verse would have great poignancy for Hannah; was Hannah thinking of the relatives and friends left behind in England, about whom little is known? Or was she thinking of the Tilleys, who she would also eventually leave?
The Tilley’s house and foundry was situated on the corner of Macquarie and Harrington streets, diagonally opposite St Joseph’s church (consecrated 1841) in what is now the Hobart CBD.

The 1847 Census reveals that of Tasmania’s total population of 70 000, a little over half were or had been convicts and less than a fifth had arrived as free settlers . Hannah Dyer was granted her Certificate of Freedom in late 1848. She had married John Fogo the year before this but had no children with him. He died in 1857 and shortly afterwards Hannah Fogo was remarried to a free settler, Thomas Medhurst (born 1821) with whom she had three children, two surviving into adulthood.



Almost square at 22.2 long and 24.4 centimetres wide, the Hannah Dyer sampler is relatively small and sparsely worked. The base cloth is a coarse, plain-weave linen typically used for samplers in the nineteenth century, which is embroidered in cross-stitch in silk and woollen thread. This means that the stitches are clearly visible, there is little scope for detail and the design has a stepped, ‘pixelated’ quality. Hannah’s sampler is bordered on all four sides with a repeating, formalised ‘strawberry’ pattern. Within this border, the upper half has four lines of more or less centred text worked in black thread that reads:
From memorys page the hand of death
alone thy name shall blot
forsake me if thou wilt
thou shallt never be forgot

Beneath this text the sampler maker’s name, ‘Hannah Dyer’ is embroidered, also in black thread, with the names pushed to the left and right edges. The lower half of the sampler contains a symmetrical composition of a central, two story house flanked by two trees with a fence running across the front; to either side of the centrally placed gateway there is a dog chained to a kennel. Typical of Georgian and early Victorian architecture, the house represented is built of red brick and is symmetrical, with a central door and a window to either side on the ground floor and three windows in the upper floor. It has a characteristic steep hipped roof and there are two symmetrically placed chimneys. The trees flanking the house are highly formalised with a fine, vertical trunk topped by a cluster of seven fruits composed of a small central disc surrounded by a circle of six equally spaced discs of the same size. Four symmetrically placed branches support a further four similar clusters. The fence posts are widely spaced, each topped with fleur- de-lys finials. Between each post there are continuous upper and lower rails and a single diagonal brace running between the upper right and lower left corners, making them the only asymmetrical pictorial component in the design. There are double posts and a gap at the centre signifying a gate. To either side of the gate, Hannah has worked two small dogs attached by long horizontal chains to kennels in black thread. Immediately above the roof and chimneys of the house is embroidered the text; ‘Peacefull the cot’.

Statement of Significance

Surviving artefacts made by Tasmanian convict women are very rare and those with known authors, rarer still. Hannah Dyer’s sampler is an unusual product of the circumstances of its manufacture in an Australian penal colony. While most samplers in the mid-nineteenth century were made by well-to-do girls and young women as a part of their education, Hannah, as an assigned convict servant, was learning the associated needlework and literacy skills later in life. While to a degree formulaic, the pictorial detail of the sampler may reflect a degree of individual expression. The two-story house is typical of the houses built by well-to-do colonists in Van Diemen’s Land, and there were many such houses being built near where Hannah lived. The chained dogs may represent a security measure still necessary in the colony’s capital in its fourth decade of existence. Hannah’s selection of a snatch of popular song – one concerning memory, loss and forgetting – rather than the rows of letters and numbers usually favoured for samplers of this period is likely to have been a personal choice and a reflection of her own feelings as an exile. As part of a campaign to educate an illiterate assigned convict servant, the sampler is an instance of benevolence in the colony.


From memorys page the hand of death
alone thy name shall blot
forsake me if thou wilt
thou shallt never be forgot


1906 'Family Notices.', The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), 6 August, p. 1, viewed 5 June, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12823957

1832 'TRADE AND SHIPPING.', The Hobart Town Courier (Tas. : 1827 - 1839), 22 June, p. 3, viewed 6 June, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4198166

1833 'Classified Advertising.', The Hobart Town Courier (Tas. : 1827 - 1839), 6 September, p. 3, viewed 22 May, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4190017

1833 'Classified Advertising.', The Hobart Town Courier (Tas. : 1827 - 1839), 6 September, p. 3, viewed 22 May, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4190017

Hartwell, RM., The Economic Development of Van Diemen’s Land 1820-1850, MUP, 1954, p. 152
1838 'Classified Advertising.', The Hobart Town Courier (Tas. : 1827 - 1839), 24 August, p. 1, viewed 22 May, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4162962

1852 'Advertising.', Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 - 1857), 26 March, p. 1, viewed 5 June, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8771125

1852 'Classified Advertising.', The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 - 1859), 31 March, p. 4, viewed 5 June, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2959277

(The Melodist and Mirthful Olio; AN ELEGANT SELECTION OF THE MOST POPULAR SONGS, RECITATIONS, GLEES, DUETS, &c. &c., vol1, H. Arliss, Cheapside, London, 1828, pp. 47-8).


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This page was last modified on : 13 October, 2014