Sampling history at the Hyde Park Barracks


Year 4 students from St Paul’s Grammar School were treated to a special surprise during their recent excursion to the Hyde Park Barracks Museum. 

Curator, Dr Fiona Starr, showed the class an embroidered panel (known as a sampler) that was crafted by hand over 200 years ago by an ancestor of their classmate, Charlotte. 

Charlotte is a descendent of Ann Marsh (or Mash), who in 1788 as a young woman from Devon, England, embroidered the Lord’s Prayer to create this sampler. Not long after, Ann was convicted for stealing a bushel of wheat, and sentenced to ‘transportation beyond the seas’. In 1789 she travelled to New South Wales on board the Lady Juliana- but the sampler did not travel with her.

So how did this beautiful and personal piece, painstakingly embroidered by Ann’s hands, end up in Australia?

It was once thought that Ann traded the sampler for food with her gaoler in England, but further investigation has revealed that she gave the sampler as a gift to Sarah Hearson, who taught her to read and write, before she was convicted. Ann Marsh died in 1823 aged 54 after a fascinating and relatively successful life in the colony. The embroidered sampler didn’t make its way to Australia until the 1960s when it was brought out by Sarah’s descendants. 

Although Ann Marsh was never housed at the Hyde Park Barracks, the embroidered sampler was acquired by the museum in 2008 as a well-preserved example of the handcrafts of female convicts. 

School student holding object.
Charlotte holding her ancestor's embroidered sampler from the Hyde Park Barracks Collection. Photo Frances Feasey © Sydney Living Museums

More news from the Hyde Park Barracks

Three people sitting on bed in exhibition space.

Hyde Park Barracks

Interpretation Australia award for exhibitionThursday 20 October 2016

The popular and immersive Female Immigration Depot, 1848-1886 exhibition which opened at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum in July 2014 has recently received an Interpretation Australia Judges Award.

Black and white photo of woman in formal dress.

Hyde Park Barracks

Peter Garrett’s Hyde Park Barracks ancestorThursday 29 September 2016

Musician and former politician Peter Garrett is another of the growing number of Australians to claim an ancestor related to Hyde Park Barracks.

A piece of embroidered cloth, showing signs of age.

Hyde Park Barracks

Sampling history at the Hyde Park BarracksWednesday 20 July 2016

Year 4 students from St Paul’s Grammar School were treated to a special surprise during their recent excursion to the Hyde Park Barracks Museum.

Group of women with wooden trunk on display against wall with window above.

Hyde Park Barracks

Margaret Hurley’s descendants visit the barracksTuesday 5 July 2016

Margaret Hurley’s wooden trunk, which first arrived at the Barracks in 1850, has now returned 165 years later, on generous loan from her descendant Rose Marie Perry, and is on display in the female Immigration Depot dormitory at Hyde Park Barracks Museum.

Woman examining collection items on desk.

Hyde Park Barracks

Close to the bone at Hyde Park Barracks MuseumMonday 4 July 2016

Archaeology honours student Kim Connor from the University of Sydney is currently studying the archaeology collection at Hyde Park Barracks Museum, and is really getting to know bones for her thesis entitled: 'Feeding the Confined'.