Just once a year, at the beginning of March, a prestigious and respected school in Wakefield lets its hair down and hosts an Antiques & Vintage Fair. The sellers are a mixture of professional dealers, ladies who dabble and mums having fun. A couple of years ago, at this fair, Mr N bought me a book of school sewing samplers, worked by a Quaker girl in the early 19th century.
Inside the hand-marbled covers are fine examples of plain sewing.
The seller parted with this wonderful book, made by her Quaker ancestor, because her own offspring had no interest in their family history.
Last year she sold me this handsome carpet bag, embroidered with coloured wools, but I was not very sure about its connection to the previous year's purchase...
...though this note, tucked inside, was written in language befitting a Friend.
This is the last piece of wool work our precious Walter did ere he left our happy home at Kingston. I have treasured it more than 24 years! I feel sure thou wilt value it for his sake as well as mine. Accept it with Mother's love."
It was dated 1898. I did not know that the bag was connected to the family story and, foolishly, I sold this precious memento. Last Saturday, the annual antiques event took place again. This time our friendly seller remembered me and brought the next chapter of her tale...
...tucked inside this simple wooden hat box.
Here is a faded photograph of her great grandmother, Patience, possibly taken on her wedding day. Along with this I found names and dates - enough to work out that the embroidered bag was sewn by her long dead brother and given to her by their mother. Patience married Alexander, a successful businessman whose distant ancestor, Jacob Hagen, was a merchant from the Netherlands, born in 1685. Throughout the family's history the children, girls and boys, were sent to Quaker schools; Stramongate in Cumberland, Earls Colne in Essex and Ackworth in Yorkshire (where my sampler book was probably made), pictured
Tissue paper layers hid more treasures - a tattered brown envelope with an exotic Brooklyn postmark...
...contained pink and white knitted silk bootees "For the Baby Girl."
The last layer revealed a wonderful silk Quaker bonnet and collar, probably the very garments that Patience wears in the faded portrait, along with a fine piece of printed muslin - from her wedding dress? I wonder if I shall be lucky enough to be entrusted with another chapter next year (do I deserve this honour after parting with the bag?) If not, I shall treasure the glimpse I've had into another family's story. That has always been a large part of the excitement of antiques for me.