Sampler by Dorothy Grace Densham, 1832.
Conservation funded by the Otago Embroiderers’ Guild in 1996.

Wool fabric, silk threads, 380mm x 300mm.

This English sampler is quite different from most of those on display here. There are no alphabet or number sequences and the work is instead dominated by a large spot motif of a woman holding a reticule (a drawstring handbag) and reaching towards a bird in a tree. It has a title, ‘Lady Stern’, though whether this relates to a particular individual or is an abstract idea is not clear. The detail of this woman’s clothing and the reticule is intriguing. There are five other large plant or fruit bowl motifs as well as two smaller ones. Birds perch atop four of them in an identical pose. The sewer’s name, age and date occupy the bottom section. The whole is set within an arcaded floral border.

Dorothy Grace Densham worked this embroidery when she was 7 years old in 1832. She was from Chumleigh in Devon, England. She was already married, to William Scully, when she arrived in New Zealand in 1860 on the Gananoque. This vessel landed at Lyttelton in Canterbury but the Scullys were soon in Riverton in Southland. William was a maltster, turning barley into malt for the production of beer. He would have had scope for work anywhere in nineteenth-century New Zealand when every little settlement had its own breweries. By the mid-1870s the Scullys had moved on to Dunedin where they remained. Dorothy died in Dunedin in 1902. Her sampler was donated to the Museum by her daughter-in-law in 1949.
Dorothy Grace Densham
Production Date
400 (h) x 310 (w) mm (mounted)