'Carcoar Court House' sampler
This sampler is a particularly fine example of samplers worked by young girls to demonstrate their skills in plain and fancy needlework.
The maker, Mary Ann Gorringe (1839-?), was born in England and came out to New South Wales as a baby. Her family settled in Carcoar where her father was a blacksmith and carpenter. At the time this sampler was produced, gold had just been discovered in the area and Carcoar would soon become a thriving regional centre.
The sampler is unusual in its depiction of a public building, the Carcoar Court House. Built in 1842, this served as Court of Petty Sessions, lock up, meeting hall and place of worship. As devout Presbyterians it is likely that the Gorringe family worshipped there on Sundays until their own church was built in 1862.
It is probable that Mary Ann copied elements of the sampler from a pattern book since the border, flowers, birds and animals are typical of those found on eighteenth and nineteenth century samplers. An Australian element has been added with the black swan above the Courthouse.
Young girls had been producing samplers as examples of their skills in needlework for over 200 years by the time Mary Ann Gorringe worked this one. However, the range of stitches and complexity of pattern was greatly reduced with cross stitch becoming the sampler stitch. Nonetheless, the sampler retained its importance. It was seen as the ideal occupation for a young girl training to become a good wife and mother. Indeed, in colonial Australia, sewing and needlework defined the very essence of femininity. Images of domesticity frequently focussed on a woman quietly stitching. This image brought together, and seemingly resolved, the basic dichotomies in women's lives: the woman is at work, yet peaceful; productive yet removed from any suggestion of commerce or industry; a quiet observer of the family yet contributing to it. As Mrs Warren and Mrs Pullan declared in 'Treasures of Needlework' (1855), needlework 'brings daily blessings to every home, unnoticed, perhaps, because of its hourly silent application; for in a household each stitch is one for comfort to some person or other and without its every watchful care home would be a scene of discomfort indeed.'
Carcoar, New South Wales