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Basket sampler

Basket sampler


Makers unknown (Queen’s Orphan Schools orphans, Tasmania)

paper; textile (cotton, silk ribbon); glass beads

15 x 15 cm

Presented by Ursula Lefroy, 1968



The basket embroidery was given as a gift to Lady Jane Franklin (1791–1875) by Queen’s Orphan School orphans in 1838. It was presented to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery by Miss Ursula Lefroy in 1968. She had received the sampler from Miss Louisa Lefroy (d. 1953), a niece of Sophia Cracroft (1816–92). Sophia Cracroft was the niece of Sir John Franklin (1786–1847) and also Lady Franklin’s long-term companion in Tasmania and elsewhere.


The King’s Boy’s and Girl’s Orphan Schools were originally established at a number temporary locations throughout Hobart from 1828. The first purpose built orphanage, now known as the Queen’s Orphan schools, was designed by colonial architect John Lee Archer (1791–1852) and opened in New Town in 1833. This sampler was made and presented to the Lieutenant-Governor’s wife, Lady Jane Franklin (1791–1875) on the occasion of the first examination five years later. The schools were intended for children who were completely destitute, whose parents could not afford to keep them or who were considered in moral danger from their parents. The orphanages were an integral part of the convict system receiving the children of assigned convict servants and those of female prisoners held at the Female Factory at Cascades.

The text embroidered into the design notes that it was made for the ‘first examination’ on 31 May, 1838. This was presumably the first examination held in girl’s wing of the newly-built school. Needlework was an important part of the education of young women in the nineteenth century, and was regarded as particularly important in imparting a work ethic and self-discipline to the colony’s female convicts. It is not known who, or how many orphans contributed to the making of this unusual sampler. The design is very simple, consisting of minor variations in each of the nine rosettes. This suggests an overall predetermined scheme within which the students were permitted to contribute minor variations.


Flat ‘basket’ made up of nine equal sized circular panels; one forming the centre or base and the remaining eight, originally forming the sides, arranged around it and overlapping one another. Each panel is made from a paper disc with pinked edges, the upper surface of which is covered with white linen. Each panel has an embroidered inscription, with a unique variation on the standard motif of a crown, below. Above the inscription there is a small motif unique to each panel. The edges and the handle of the basket are made from flat pink silk ribbon. The handle is decorated with a panel of wound thread and beads.

Statement of Significance

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery seeks to build a comprehensive representation of decorative arts made in Tasmania throughout the colonial period. This sampler links the convict system, the colony’s earliest attempts at education for the underprivileged, and the tradition of needlework in the education of girls and young women. Its unusual form distinguishes it as a gift made to celebrate a particular occasion—the first examinations at the newly opened Queen’s Orphan Schools.


The embroidered Inscriptions read as follows: centre panel - ‘The right reverend / Lord Bishop of / Australia’; other panels - ‘The Queens’, ‘Female Orphan / School’, ‘Sir John Franklin / Lieutenant governor’, ‘Rev’ TB Taylor’, ‘Mr Master’, ‘The First’, ‘Public Examination’, ‘May the 31st 1838’.

This website was made possible through the generous support of the Gordon Darling Foundation, which provided funds for research, equipment and website design.

© 2009 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
This page was last modified on : 1 July, 2010