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

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