Sunday, September 15, 2013

Royal School of Needlework - Part 5: We Hit the Jackpot!

Every now and again, the internet delivers a wonderful surprise. In early September, Debbie, who lives in Shropshire, England sent me a brief note saying she was able to identify the young lady who was stitching the GoldWork Sampler in the class photo at The Royal School of Needlework. Would I like to know her name?

I felt that I had won the pot of gold at the end of a treasure hunt. My profound thanks to Debbie for the initial information and then looking for more and sending me all that she found.

The young lady stitching that complex piece was Joan Lander. She was older than us teenagers having served as a nurse during World War lI and then started training at the Royal School of Needlework in 1947. At the time of the photograph she would have been in her last year of studies (see Blog entry of July 4, 2013).

Joan Lander's family home was Sunnycroft. Wikipedia supplied the following history:

Located in the market town of Wellington, Shropshire, England, and owned by the National Trust as one of their more unusual properties.

Suburban villas were almost 'country estates in miniature' that attempted to emulate upper class mansions on a middle class budget. Many have either been modernized, renovated or refurbished out of recognition over the last 60 years or so or have been demolished and replaced with later housing, converted into offices or residential care homes, or have been broken up into flats and smaller residences.

Rare Survivor

Sunnycroft remains intact, complete with the original interior fixtures and fittings, many of which are still in place and therefore has a unique character and intimacy that is often lacking from larger properties but very evocative of its time and place.

Sunnycroft was built in 1880, and extended in 1899. Uniquely the house remained in the same family from its completion in 1899, until it was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1997.

The National Trust summarises Sunnycroft as:

A late 19th-century gentleman's villa – typical creation of Victorian era suburbia
Rare unaltered interior, with an elaborate conservatory
A mini country-estate, with pigsties, stables, kitchen garden and orchards
Colourful borders and summertime flower displays
Superb long avenue of redwood trees and lime trees.

Visitors to the house will get an insight into some of the exquisite embroidery worn at Westminster Abbey and can browse through souvenir newspapers.

The ‘Thread Through History’ exhibition is housed in Miss Lander's former bedroom and embroidery workshops are planned throughout the year.

Joan Lander travelled far and wide to teach embroidery and traded as Joan Lander Designs. She was awarded a gold medal by the Royal School of Needlework and held lessons around the dining room table at Sunnycroft.

Joan’s travels led her to collect all sorts of textiles and designs that inspired her work – including several pieces of Leek embroidery – providing a link with the likes of William Morris, who designed pieces for the Leek Embroidery School.

“Among the amazing collection we have also recently discovered what we think is the largest collection of Leek embroidery in the country.”

The fabulous colours of the silks and fabrics have been perfectly preserved through years of being hidden away in various pieces of furniture throughout the house.

National Trust curators and conservators have been delving in to cupboards and chests of drawers to create this fascinating new exhibition.

Joan worked on the embroidery of the Queen’s Purple Robe of Velvet at the 1953 coronation.

Leek Embroidery is William Morris Designs stitched with Silk Thread. I had never heard of it until now.

The following piece of embroidery is now owned by the National Trust. Designed and stitched by Joan while a student at RSN, it is probably her sampler of Laid Work. The appearance and the fact that it was stitched with silk threads leads me to that conclusion.

Joan Lander, bequeathed the house and estate to the National Trust. Realizing its historical value, she did not alter or modernize the house.

You will find a tour of some of the house, contents and the gardens on the following site:

There is a picture of the billiard table which she did not use for billiards but rather as a storage area for her embroidery supplies. There is only one photo of her embroidery on this site but her early RSN samplers would have been the same as mine.

I have also read that she also worked on the gown the Queen wore to her Coronation. She was chosen to be part of this team because of her exceptional skills particularly in GoldWork. From the wording, it is not clear if it was the gown or the velvet train she worked on but both were embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework.

Debbie thinks that Joan’s GoldWork sampler may be in a local church and hopes to be able to find it.

To add to this discovery, Debbie found a Pathe News Film dated 1951. It was taken at the Queen's presentation of Diplomas to graduating students at the Royal School of Needlework. There is no sound track so here is a quick guide. I think that it was taken in the front office of the school's property at Princes Gate. Everyone bows or curtseys to the Queen and then to the Princess Royal who is seated on the Queen's right. The gentleman with the Queen is Earl Spencer, father of Princess Diana.

The graduating students are, first, Joan Lander. She had won the Gold Medal as an excellent student. There is a bit of repetition and you will see her twice. The second lady, I do not know. The student second to last out of four (at 00:21) is myself!! Continue watching through the gentlemen receiving their honours. They were also graduates of RSN, presumably from the night school program as they were not among the day students. Following this, you will see the Queen touring the display of students' work. She is accompanied by Joan and is looking at the sampler which I am sure that you will now recognize. I am standing in the doorway at the back. I was wearing a blue wool dress made by my mother from a Vogue pattern. Is not the Queen a truly beautiful woman with a wonderful smile!

A link to another very short video of this momentous occasion was supplied by Claire Reeves of the National Trust. In this one, you will see more of the stitched samplers. Lander

Notwithstanding Pathe's assertion that the film dates from 1951, I think that it is more likely to be 1952. My recollection is that RSN did not have a presentation in '51 because there were so few students actually graduating that year so the presentation of their certificates was postponed until '52. But until I locate my Diploma, I cannot be sure of the date.

I do remember the day and receiving my Diploma from the Queen. I did not get a higher level Certificate as I had only been a student for 18 months and had not completed the three year course. But I worked as hard and as fast as I could and completed about 2 1/2 years worth of work.

Debbie happened to find my blog as she is interested in embroidery and has taken a course on Crewel Embroidery taught by RSN and presented in her neighbourhood. She is eager for there to be another course and hopes to have the time to attend. She sent me a photo of her project which is a real credit to her and I hope that she will be able to continue this interest.

I hope that you have enjoyed this blog entry as much as I have creating it.


Margo Brooks said...

Wow! You got your diploma from the Queen?! Wow! How special to have video of it. As an American I am not supposed to be that impressed, but I am! The Queen looks so classy!

Jessica said...

Dear Ann, thanks for the interresting read. Unfortunately, the Queen no longer pops over to present the diplomas :). Just a note; the Flickr link does not seem to be working.
Have a nice day, Jessica